Why loving complaints will make you successful

Anger can be turned into adulation; pissed off can be transformed into hugs — Roy, unbelievable

In the world of an organization, this fact is huge because, however unintended, customers get screwed over from time to time.

There are two actions that every organization should take given this eventuality.

Make it easy
First, ensure internal systems, rules and procedures are designed to make it easy for the customer to engage with and do business with you.

Design your “inside” with the customer in mind so they have a pleasant experience with you not a nightmare.

Screw over plan

Second, given the fact that Murphy’s Law is always lurking in the shadows poised to strike, develop a strategy to deal with customer screw ups.

Most organizations don’t even think about determining the appropriate course of action when customer engagement goes sideways; they hope and pray it doesn’t happen and put all their resources and energy into preventing its occurrence.

Prevention, as a singular approach, won’t work; it will help, but it will never avoid the unintended mistakes that makes a customer go postal.

Leaders should view dealing with customer complaints as a priority and as a vital component of the organization’s strategy to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Every customer “anger moment” is disguised as an opportunity to improve the strategic position of an organization if the customer is handled the right way.

Customer Anger Management 101

There are 3 overriding principles that need to be understood to achieve the benefits of anger.

#1 - Relationships

Recovering the right way from an angered circumstance can improve the relationship you have with the person you pissed off.

If an organization recovers from a complaint exceedingly well, the customer is delighted and they are more committed to the organization than they were before the anger episode.

Customers remember the recovery made after a screw over and not so much the problem that caused it — Roy, failing memory

#2 - Speed

Speed is of the essence; the screw up needs to be fixed FAST.

When you have committed an egregious act the customer expects their complaint to be rectified, but it must be done quickly.

Studies have shown that you have at most 24 hours to repair your blunder; after that period you’ve missed the opportunity to be in the game for a hug.

If immediate action is not taken, the hug never comes and your victim typically communicates far and wide how disastrous your service is and the crumby values you have as an organization.

#3 - The magic dust

Do more than fix the mistake; SURPRISE the customer with what they don’t expect. Even if the OOPS! is dealt with expeditiously, all you’ve done is met their expectations. It’s the SURPRISE element that turns them from “expectations met” to leaning in for a hug.

The SURPRISE is the magic dust that amazes and delights the victim; leaves them awestruck and breathless — Roy, can’t breathe

And bonds them to you more than they were before the OOPS!

To satisfy the basic principles of Anger 101, these tactics must be consistently practised in every anger moment to earn a hug and build a band of loyalists.


regardless of who's fault it is. Trying to blame the customer for the event won't get you a hug.

Apologize for the impact the event had on the customer. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you" is a way to move forward into the recovery process without having to admit culpability for the OOPS!

And when it’s your fault own it! Your currency in the customer’s eyes depends on your honesty.

Shut up about company policy

NEVER quote company policy to justify what was done to piss the customer off. EVER!

People don't care about them your and to remind them that they “don’t understand” how you do business and that they should have behaved differently will only anger them even more.

Don’t escalate

NEVER have the issue referred to a supervisor as a means of control; empower your employees to solve the problem then and there.

This gives your employees currency in the customer's eyes and enables a fast resolution of the complaint. And gets you closer to a hug.

Personalize your SURPRISE!

NEVER use common "trash and trinket" items as the surprise vehicle you use to move beyond merely fixing the OOPS!

People hate them. Develop a list of more personal surprise tokens that employees can choose from depending on what they learn about the customer during the complaint experience.

Have humans standing by

Have a real person standing by any of your self serve applications.

Complaint recovery cannot be suitably handled through automated systems. When is the last time you enjoyed being served by technology - like an automated voice messaging system - when you had a problem with an organization?

Every organization looks for an edge over their competitors, but most of them miss an obvious strategy that can truly separate them from the herd.

Be the ONLY one that leans into customer anger and takes its energy to earn a hug — hugs breed success — Roy, hugger
Written by Roy Osing
A leading executive in Canadian business and a recognized content marketer, blogger, speaker, seminar leader, business consultant, educator and personal coach.

Roy Osing (@royosing) is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.


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