A woman laughing with her hands over her mouth

Customer complaint? Learn to L.A.U.G.H. about it

July 14, 2021 / Katharine Gebhardt

If you’re lucky, you don’t get many customer complaints. Or are you? In fact, only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complains. The rest simply walk away. They are angry enough, or have so little connection to you and your business, that it’s not worth spending their time to tell you there’s a problem.

So, if you receive a complaint, you have a golden opportunity to fix the relationship. You just need to know how to LAUGH.

LAUGH is an acronym that lays out the steps to follow when a customer is upset. It’s been in use for years, but its origin is unclear.

Just as important as knowing the steps is following the order of those steps. Our instinct may be to skip straight to apologies and solutions. When you learn the process below, you’ll see there’s a foundation to lay to save a customer relationship.

LAUGH - 5 steps to successfully resolving complaints

Whenever you’re dealing with a problem, make sure you connect in person. You’ll have much better results than by email or other electronic communication.

L – Listen

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill, Thought Leader, Author, Activist and Social Entrepreneur

This first step may be the hardest. When people feel wronged, they want to tell you the whole story. Your job is to listen without interrupting.

Don’t be tempted to skip ahead to solving the problem. After all, if you don’t let them air that rant, they’ll probably share it with friends and neighbours instead.

A – Acknowledge

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” – Bear Bryant, Former College Football Player and Coach

People want you to say they’ve been wronged; if you need to apologize, now’s the time.

Maybe an apology isn’t appropriate. In that case, acknowledge what they’ve told you and their feelings about it.

Either way, resist the temptation to justify or apply the blame elsewhere. And remember to thank them for bringing the problem to you. Remember, most people won’t give you a chance to make it right.

U – Understand

“Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey, Author The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Don’t start offering solutions quite yet. You may need to pause the conversation here so you can investigate and find the right solutions. You may need to talk to others to find out what you can do for the customer.

Give your customer a time when you’ll get back to them. Get back to them by the deadline, even if you don’t have a solution yet.

G – Give solutions

“Be helpful — even if there’s no immediate profit in it.” – Susan Ward, Small Business Expert and Writer

Here’s where you can finally offer solutions. You’ve taken time to investigate, so you know how things went wrong. You’ll have talked to the right people and know what you can offer.

Because you listened, you can solve the immediate issues, plus any others you heard when you read between the lines.

H – Hit it home

“The only certain means is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” – Og Mandino, Author The Greatest Salesman in the World

Follow up for two reasons: first, to make sure the problem’s solved; second, to show that you care. Like your first step, this is one that’s easy to miss, but makes all the difference.

LAUGHter is the best medicine, even when it comes to an upset customer

We all know that an existing customer is worth much more than the effort of finding a new one. And if you “hit it home”, you leave them telling people that you looked after them. If you don’t make them feel looked after, rest assured they’ll also tell people about that!

“Thank your customer for complaining and mean it. Most will never bother to complain. They’ll just walk away.” – Marilyn Suttle, Success Coach

These five steps will help to build your relationship with your customer and move things forward. Follow them any time, and you and your customer will both be glad that you shared a LAUGH.

Get started today: Dealing with upset customers is easier if you have a process prepared in advance. Write it down, including these steps to LAUGH, and share it with your colleagues to use when they are faced with an angry customer.


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