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Customer Complaints are Compliments


We all have them.  No matter how focused we are on customer satisfaction, it is almost inevitable that at some stage you will receive a customer complaint. These complaints are perceived as something negative and therefore we hastily sweep it under the carpet to avoid repercussions. This outlook on complaints will soon result in pushing profits out the door! If handled well, it can be a valuable practice building tool.

We already know that customer retention and satisfaction drive profits. We also know that if we don’t give our customers good reasons to stay with us, our competitors will give them good reasons to leave. This means that, should our customers come back to us to complain, they are paying us a compliment. Even though they are very upset with us, they still trust us more than they trust our competitors and would rather have us take care of the problem and fix the relationship.

We owe it to them to ensure that their problems are taken care of promptly and professionally by having a complaint handling policy in our practice. Our business will benefit in several ways:

  • Our product and service delivery will improve.
  • Fewer mistakes will be made and less time wasted fixing them.
  • We’ll have a better understanding of our customers’ needs.
  • We will have more referrals through word of mouth advertising from our satisfied clients.
  • We will spend less time and money trying to attract new customers.
  • Our satisfied customers will soon influence our profits.

Research indicates that customers who complain are likely to continue doing business with your company if they feel that their complaint was taken seriously and was dealt with effectively.

What do they really want from us?

  • They want to be taken seriously and need time to vent without interruptions.
  • They want to be treated with respect always.
  • They are looking for a solution to their problem.
  • They need to understand what the process will entail and what you are saying – drop the jargon!
  • They need to be kept informed of progress without them having to call.
  • They need to know who is taking responsibility for the process.

Deal with the complaints you receive immediately

Implement a company policy that deals with complaints immediately and have them resolved within 24 hours of the initial complaint. This will ensure that the customer knows the complaint is being processed. At times this issue may not be resolved by then, but the customer will be aware that it is being addressed.

  • Begin by thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention and therefore allowing you to ensure that it never happens again.
  • Reassure them that, no matter what it takes, you will find a solution to their problem.
  • Introduce them to the person who will walk them through the process (i.e. Lab manager, dispenser or optometrist.)
  • Use a complaint register that is followed up daily to ensure that you do not drop the catch again!
  • Review complaints weekly or monthly to establish whether there are any trends or obvious things you could change or improve.

Ensure the process of lodging a complaint is easy for your customers

Consider using a simple sign at your point of sale: ‘You are important to us. If you are not 100% satisfied with our product or service, please talk to us about it’.

  • Put a paragraph on invoices with the same message and include an email address.
  • Include a customer feedback option on your website.
  • In advertising, your practice’s complaint system could be the theme of an advertising campaign.
  • Have a “Compliments and Complaints” book on your counter and request your customers to make an entry in it, while they are waiting for you to generate their receipts.

Service Recovery Letters

Service recovery letters may seem “over the top” as they are sent after the customer complaint has already been resolved.  However, if your customer still has the slightest doubt about returning to your practice, these letters will cement their trust in you again.

Download samples of these letters in English and in Afrikaans at: under the “Toolbox” icon.  Ensure that these letters are neatly printed on your letterhead or professional looking email and sent out 3 days after the complaint has been resolved. Depending on the seriousness of the complaint, you may want to include a gift voucher offering a discount / free service.

The purpose of a service recovery letter is:

  • Thanking the customer again for giving you the opportunity to rectify the problem instead of just going to the opposition
  • Reassuring them of the fact that you only provide quality product and service
  • Inviting them back to your practice for future eye care needs

The customer is not always right– I know.  However, winning the argument means losing the customer! Angry, complaining customers care enough to talk to you, and have not yet decided to take their business to the competition. They are customers worth keeping.