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Complaint managament: the power of apology

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Let’s finish the week with a video and a few lines on complaint management best practices. A recent article was brought to my attention by Dr. Sandra Rothenberger.

As we explained in an earlier article, we spend a lot of time observing and analyzing firms’ complaint handling practices and measuring customer satisfaction. This allows us to make some correlations between what is responded by a firm and how the customer reacts.

On the video below Lesley Mottla, executive VP of Zipcar explains what she does when faced with a customer complaint. Her reaction of profusely apologizing is often observed in firm-customer relationships in the US but is much rarer in Europe. It seems that firms in Europe are more attached to protecting their face than their US counterparts.

Yet, apologizing and hence implicitly acknowledging the failure is a powerful way to calm the customer down so that a real interaction can take place. It brings emotions down and powerfully conveys the impression that the customer is being listened to.




We won’t repeat it enough times. When a customer is not satisfied and complains, you MUST apologize. Whether or not the customer is right is a totally different story; you’ll have time to clear that up later. But you won’t get a second chance to make a good impression in front of an angry customer.


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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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