How to Determine When a Customer Has a Real Problem

There are so many opportunities out there for customers to have problems with companies today.  Whether it is the phone bill, a mortgage lender, or even your local fast food restaurant, people are looking out for number one—and will do what it takes to get the best service in the quickest manner that makes their lives easier.  Often, unfortunately, at the cost of an individual or company's integrity.

How do you know the difference between a real complaint and a fabricated one?  Here are some suggestions designed to help you identify real issues vs. false ones:

  1. Ask specific, open-ended questions.  When the customer complains, regardless of how they do it, take the time to ask very specific questions about the situation that has upset them.  Avoid "yes"/"no" questions, as they will not help you dig to the real problem.  Open-ended questions will help you discern more quickly whether or not the issues are real or fabricated.
  1. Review what happened with your customer.  The best way to do this is to take careful notes, and then repeat back to the customer what you heard them say.  The best way to start this is by saying, "So, (NAME), to clarify that I heard and understand your problems accurately, this is what I heard you say your problem is:…".  From there, list the problems in the order in which they were given to you by the customer.  This will help you determine whether or not the customer is telling the truth (based on your internal processes) or not (based on their unmet expectations).
  1. Determine where the real problem is.  If the customer has very real, specific issues that are related to your internal processes and where your internal processes failed the customer, fix the problem for the customer immediately.  Once you have the list of their idea of what happened, you will be able to do this effectively, by comparing their story to your processes.

    If the customer's story seems very one-sided, and it seems that they are asking for much more than they paid for or are asking for service that is not warranted, but enables them to make more money while keeping the product or service they purchased, be wary.  You may want to get a manager involved unless your company has a process in place to help you deal with these customers specifically.  Make sure to show them in the most polite, friendly way that your company provided them with the products/services they requested, and you are not sure you understand the issue.
  2. Take care of customer.  Regardless of who is at fault, take care of the customer.  If you upset one customer, you run the risk of losing many others with whom they may be in contact.  If the customer has fabricated their issue, take care of them, and then recommend that they seek alternate resources to find their services/products in the future.

In general, it should be easy to discover whether or not your customer's issue is a real one or not.  Asking specific questions to get to the heart of the matter will help you uncover the real issue at hand.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.