First a poem, then the list of 10 ways:
What’s a complaint, if not a cry for help
A signal that communicates a wish or hope
Complaints can be useful to bosses
Who are interested in preventing future losses
Of people, processes, time, and harmony
What’s a complaint, if not an idea cloaked
A bit of creativity waiting to be evoked
Complaints can become positive
For they mean communication is active
And it takes a conversation to change the world.
10 Ways to Handle Complaints - For Managers
Do you struggle to respond to complaints? Complaints are not all treated equally. Most managers welcome and can deal with a complaint that is valid and objectively expressed. Complaints that seem trite, invalid, or resemble whining are more difficult to handle.
Don’t be defensive
When dealing with complaints, we are often our own worst enemies! Taking complaints personally makes it more difficult to resolve the matter and move on. Managers who can focus on the information and the resolution without getting defensive will find complaints less disruptive and cumbersome.
Understand the facts
The person is complaining for a reason. Before jumping to any conclusions, learn the facts of the situation. Look at the issue from all sides and ask the person to explain his or her view.
When a person complains, he or she wants to feel as though you have listened and understand. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand the situation and to show you are listening. Empathize when appropriate and apologize for mistakes. Listen for what the person wants to happen next, because it is often reasonable and easy to accommodate requests.
Acknowledge the person’s feelings
You do not have to agree with the person to recognize how they are feeling. Saying things like, “I can see you are frustrated,” or “I understand this ordeal has been annoying to you,” will go a long way toward diffusing the complainer’s anger.
Try to solve the problem or offer alternatives
The quickest way to take care of complaints is to solve the issue. This may seem like common sense, but many managers allow complaints to linger and go unresolved. If a solution is not possible, it is important to offer an alternative to resolve the complaint.
Thank people for constructive complaints
Receiving complaints can be a good thing because it signals that communication lines are open. Constructive complaints can help managers identify problems and address barriers. Listening to and thanking others for sharing complaints will strengthen relationships.
Involve the right people
You may not be the best person to resolve a complaint and will want to bring in others to address the concern. This does not mean that you can wash your hands of the complaint! As the “complaint receiver” you are responsible for ensuring the person gets a response.
Provide the facts
Team members are more likely to gripe and groan about a decision they do not understand. You can resolve many complaints by clarifying team members’ questions and concerns. Managers who take the time to explain decisions upfront prevent many complaints from occurring.
Run and hide
Just kidding! Don’t try this at work or home.
Ask for complaints
Managers who ask for complaints will find that team members express their concerns more objectively and openly. Inviting complaints reduces the likelihood the person will be upset and emotional. It is a way to nip problems in the bud and solve problems before they are able to fester and grow. Try setting aside the last 15 minutes of each staff meeting to discuss complaints.
Active MBWA and open communication can go a long way toward preventing team member and peer complaints. Often, a complaint is really a second or third attempt to share and be heard. Managers should recognize and respect diverse points of view and areas of disagreement.