Dealers’ Domain

Question: How do you handle customer complaints?


The first step in dealing with customer complaints is to avoid having them in the first place. And that starts before the initial sale even occurs. Things like selling quality, matching the customer’s needs to the appropriate product, and honestly representing the product’s capabilities will go a long way toward eliminating future complaints.
But when a customer has a complaint, listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t make excuses, don’t defend, and never argue.
Find out what the customer wants. That may not be as obvious as it sounds. You may think that the customer wants a new mower, when all they really want is their yard mowed before a special event, and a loaner may solve the problem. Don’t assume, ask.
Take ownership of the problem and find a solution that is acceptable to the customer. Because a customer is frustrated, does not mean that they are unreasonable. In most cases, once the customer realizes you are sincerely trying to solve the problem, they will partner with you.
Remain positive, do not focus on cost, or assign blame. Remember that dealing with a customer complaint is an opportunity to reinforce your customer’s decision to purchase from you in the first place.
— Roger Zerkle, owner
Zerkle Diversified Ent. LLC
Flat Rock, Ill.


Due to the personal approach we take when dealing with our customers, complaints are few and far between. When a situation does arise, I allow the customer to fully speak their piece and then I apologize for whatever has happened to upset them. Depending on what has caused the issue, I do what I can to correct it and make my customer happy. A recent example is one of my customers has had a repeated issue with a handheld product that is now out of warranty. It is a known problem with the manufacturer, so we called and were able to get some warranty support. We decided the best way to keep the customer happy is to give him a brand-new unit that no longer has the problem. Did we lose some money? Yes, but we kept a good customer.
— Matthew Borden, vice president
Ed & Matt Equipment
Greenville, R.I.


The first thing I try to do is very carefully listen to their complaint. Then, I try to list their concerns back to them. I also try and ascertain if it is service or warranty. I then ask if they bought the equipment at my dealership. If they bought it at our dealership, I assure them that we will take care of their problem and offer them a loaner if needed. If they bought it at another dealership or box store, as much as I would like to help them, I tell them it might be faster to take it back to where they bought it. The customers who buy from us are our number one priority. Their purchase is what keeps us in business, and they expect us to take care of them. If box store customers need service and are willing to wait, we will take care of them as soon as we can.
— John Moon, owner
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center, Inc.
Ulysses, Pa.


With as much grace as I can offer, I really do a good job of making them happy. Most complaints are just asking for help. Some are ready for a fight when they walk in. But it really depends on the complaint and how it’s delivered to me. Most are easily handled. However, some complaints go south so quickly that we are blindsided. Then, the @*#% hits the fan, and that’s the last time we see them. Most of the time, we are better off. I’ve called the other shops in town when we get the wild ones so they can be on the lookout, and most times, they have already had them in their shop and already sent them on their way.
— Tony Nation, owner
Nation’s Small Engine, Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.

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