Mālama for the Customer who Complains

This month, our ho‘ohana has been to more fully learn and live the value of Mālama; to serve and to honor, to protect and care for.

With our guests and customers, we can be tested most on our alignment with this value when it comes to handling their complaints.

No matter how hard we may try to serve others in our work, and no matter how good our intentions are in doing so, there will be times in which “stuff happens.” The first thing we must do is tackle the problem head on and not avoid it if our customer is to feel we care about the situation, and that we truly care about them.

Easier said than done
at times, I know. No one likes to walk into a problem situation in which they know a guest or customer isn’t pleased.

Well, one way to deal with that dread and avoidance, and practice Mālama at the same time, is to have a method with which everyone in your company understands how to handle customer complaints, and agrees works well. Once everyone learns it and commits to following the steps involved, they’ll feel they are better equipped to handle the situations which inevitably may crop up.

This becomes part of Mālama too, Mālama  for your staff, for they won’t feel they are “thrown to the wolves.”  Besides stemming avoidance and handling the complaint expeditiously — and that alone gives you a quick advantage with the customer — when the process is systemized in your company, with everyone aware of the problem-solving sequence of events your staff quickly become in sync with any communications for service delivery which may need to occur in the organization as a whole.

I have a 7-step process for resolving customer complaints as the subject of my Thursday article for Lifehack.org today. Let’s take a look at it here too:

7 Steps for Resolving Customer Complaints

1. Listen Intently: Listen to the customer, and do not interrupt them. They need to tell their story and feel that they have been heard.

2. Thank Them: Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. You can’t resolve something you aren’t completely aware of, or may be making faulty assumptions about.

3. Apologize: Sincerely convey to the customer your apology for the way the situation has made them feel. Let the customer know they are valued.

4. Seek the Best Solution: Determine what the customer is seeking as a solution.  Ask them; often they’ll surprise you for asking for less than you initially thought you’d have to give—especially when they perceive your apology and intention is genuinely sincere.

5. Reach Agreement: Seek to agree on the solution that will resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Your best intentions can miss the mark completely if you still fail to deliver what the customer wants.

6. Take Action: Act on the solution with a sense of urgency. Customers will often respond more positively to your focus on helping them immediately versus than on the solution itself.

7. Follow-up: Follow-up to ensure the customer is completely satisfied, especially when you have had to enlist the help of others for the solution delivery. Everything up to this point will be for naught if the customer feels that “out of sight is out of mind.”

Problems happen. It’s how you honestly acknowledge and handle them which counts with people. Customers will remember you, and happily give you another chance to delight them when you choose to correct problems with the very best you can offer, proving you value them and their business.

And a shout-out to all you managers. This very same process works well for staff complaints too. It all boils down to Mālama and your caring about them enough to make things right.

  1. Take the time to listen, and listen intently.
  2. Appreciate them, and let them know you do.
  3. Apologize sincerely when you need to do so. Focus on how the situation has made them feel.
  4. Seek the best solution; do not be satisfied with the quickest or most expeditious one.
  5. Reach win-win agreements which both of you engage in.
  6. Take action immediately to show you care.
  7. Follow-up regularly to show you will always care.

Related posts:

The Customer is NOT Always Right

Our April Ho‘ohana: Mālama: What is Caring in business and at work?


  1. says

    Rosa, thank you. There is no time like the present to get a reminder on how to handle customer complaints. A well handled complaint may make that person a customer for life, while of course, a mishandled complaint will lose that customer for the life of the business.

  2. says

    7 Links for 4/23/06

    Mālama for the Customer who Complains – A seven step process for handling customer complaints. Extends ell to co-workers and many other types of relationships too.
    Managing J2EE and .NET Interoperating Applications – Focuses on managing Java and .NE…

  3. says

    The Trainer named Empathy

    In the early days of my management career in the hotel industry, there was a standard practice that seems to have fallen by the wayside, and I can’t imagine why. Well, I take that back, I think I know why. It’s a thing called ‘cost’ when the c…