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The Customer is Always Right, Or Are They?! How to Handle Customer Complaints

“May I see your manager please?” Haven’t we all said it?! For years we have always heard the phrase the customer is always right and it has served the consumer quite well! All of us have been consumers and at least 90% of you, I’m guessing, have at least made one complaint. Maybe you were at a restaurant and your quesadillas came out cold or perhaps the cashier at Target decided to get a little attitude because her Snapchat update was driving her insane.

The manager is our favorite “go to” person but what happens when YOU are the manager or business owner? It’s every entrepreneur’s biggest fear (besides going out of business or running out of Mimosa mix during the Sunday brunch hour…oh the horror!). The good news is, it’s not time to panic. It’s time to fix and resolve!

manager blame

The restaurant business is my favorite example because it puts managers and sometimes owners, face to face with the people they are working so hard to serve. So, let’s say Mr. Joe Averageguy didn’t ask for bacon on his sandwich due to his recent switch to the vegetarian life but due to a miscommunication, Mr Averageguy’s sandwich came out smelling like a Denny’s all meat special. What should you do?

  1. BEFORE dealing with the customer, have a resolution in mind ( example: find out what they ordered and start having the chef make another so that it’s in the process before stepping out to face your customer or have a coupon ready for their next meal)

  2. Come out with a smile and with the willingness to make amends with whatever reasonable offer you have in mind

  3. DO NOT ask the customer what it will take to make things right. Usually that’s your first response but depending on the offense, they could be heated and might make an unreasonable demand (example: ask for everyone’s meal to be free, ask for free alcoholic beverages, etc.)

  4. Be sincere with whatever you say. People can always tell if you mean an apology or not.


This seems simple enough, but what happens when the customer is not even in your store. A hug, a handshake, a high five and an apology are hard to give when a consumer gives a bad review! Don’t fret just yet! This may not be as difficult as you think.

angry customer

Let’s say Tina Couponclipsalot walks into your store and her favorite item that was advertised for $5.99 rang up for full price at $6.99. Tina goes home, checks her receipt and is one unhappy camper! Tina takes a coupon break and has not had time to take it back to the store so she does the next best thing…writes a bad review online. What should you do?

  1. Apologize for her inconvenience. No one wants to pay more when you can pay less.

  2. Empathize with her. She may be having a really bad day. Her goldfish may have died. Her boyfriend may have been caught sending inappropriate texts to her cousin. You just don’t know, so try to show her that you understand.

  3. Always and I mean ALWAYS be professional in your response! Often the mistakes I have seen have been rude and downright disrespectful replies from business owners or establishments.

  4. Have a resolution in mind and be sure to offer it right away! Solving the problem is your main goal and besides, you don’t want this to happen agin to the next customer, so get it fixed. Let them know how it will be done.

As we said before, bad reviews are unavoidable so just remember to be prepared for them. We all make mistakes but don’t let your mistakes, make you! This could be an opportunity to shine in front of your current customers and your future customers. Show them how you get things done. Just remember, the customer is always right and even when they aren’t, you can at least make them feel better!

happy person

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