Customer Service—Or Dissatisfaction

by Kacey Larsen
Tony Alessandra Profile: Customer Complaints

Everywhere you turn today, you hear about the importance of customer satisfaction. From the bank to the phone company to a restaurant, every business proclaims: “The Customer Is King,” and “People Are Our Business,” and “Your Satisfaction Is Our No. 1 Goal.”

If you believe this, reflect on the following: Abundant research and surveys reveal that 1 in 4 customers is said to be thinking about leaving the average business at any given time because of dissatisfaction.

A major mistake by most companies is that they often treat customers and clients as if they’re all pretty much the same. Only by honoring their individuality can you hope to build lasting rapport. A positive attitude toward service means that each contact—even a conflict or complaint—is an opportunity that may never come again. To be clear, it is a matter of perception—by customers, you and your employees.

Moments of Magic can occur when your employees greet someone with a warm smile, use their name, shake their hand and then sincerely ask about their project and needs.

Conversely, customers remember clearly Moments of Misery, such as crew or project managers who won’t take responsibility for solving problems, and personnel who don’t seem to know what they’re doing and, worse yet, don’t seem to care. This includes salespeople who make promises that are not fulfilled.

The key to creating Moments of Magic is exceeding a customer’s expectations. Sounds simple enough. But because people’s expectations vary according to personality type, what works for one may not work for another. Handling a complaint is one of the most common, yet difficult, service situations for customers and employees alike.

As anyone who’s ever dealt with upset customers can attest, they can be a diverse bunch: some loudly belligerent, some agitated and overloading you with details, others “low key” and almost apologetic. But if you respond the same way to the belligerent, the agitated and the apologetic, you might increase the irritation for some, which may produce a Moment of Misery, because each behavioral style shows different symptoms of stress and reacts in different ways. But if you can recognize and respond to these patterns, you can reduce stress—yours and theirs.

I applaud Dave Yoho Associates, a regular contributor to this publication, for their constant development of tools that aid in identifying behavioral traits and creating problem-solving scripts.

With over 50 years of experience in talent selection, and having issued over 150,000 DISC Profiles across a wide variety of industries, Dave Yoho Associates’ hiring methodology is validated by organizations that recruit, interview, hire and manage those in various occupations and professions.

Notably, Dave Yoho Associates has developed a redesigned format of the DISC Behavioral Profile to be utilized for all levels of recruiting, team building, and primary and extended training. Readers of this publication can receive a complimentary copy of the latest version by sending an email to with the word “Profile” in the subject line. A companion instrument, Sales Aptitude Appraisal, enables organizations to improve interviewing techniques and hiring practices, as well as training and management methods for those selected to create and maintain customer satisfaction. These instruments are also teaching reports. They examine behavior of both a company’s customers and personnel. Here are four examples:

High ‘D’ Dominance Style complainants are often aggressive and pushy. They may become intrusive, perhaps saying things like, “I demand to talk to the president now!” or, “If you don’t respond to my wishes in this matter, you’ll hear from my lawyer in the morning.”

Both employee and customer may try to dictate terms and conditions, but ask yourself: What do they need? You can help defuse them by providing:

  • Someone who listens and asks questions for clarity
  • Results, or at least tangible signs of progress
  • Evidence that their feelings and values are important
  • A belief that a positive outcome can be achieved.

Don’t assert your authority and argue with the High D’s. They won’t listen and may reassert their position even more aggressively.

High ‘I’ Influence Styles with a complaint are often overeager and impulsive. They might say, “I need this settled immediately,” despite your logical explanation of why a complex situation can’t possibly be cleared that rapidly. They may respond in verbal attack, or they may come across as manipulative, perhaps saying, “I wonder if a letter to your owner or Yelp would improve your attitude?”

Under stress, their primary response may be to disregard the facts and anything you say. But you can address their needs by giving them:

  • Personal attention, asking questions and probing for background information
  • Affirm their position: “You are helping me to understand”
  • Lots of verbal acknowledgement: “I see this has you upset”
  • Assurance that their conversation is beneficial and useful.

It is important not to let the High I’s harangue you. Try to give them a quick-paced, spirited explanation that shows you aren’t just brushing them off. Compliment them on the quality of their information. Assure them you will follow up—and be sure you do.

High ‘S’ Steadiness Styles are seldom loud and argumentative. They may appear submissive, hesitant or even apologetic. Worse, they may not even complain openly but just internalize their dissatisfaction and then take their business elsewhere. If you suspect a problem, you may need to draw them out.

High S’s (whether employee or customer) dislike conflict; they wish this whole problem would go away, sometimes even if it’s not necessarily settled in their favor.

High S’s will be made most comfortable if you:

  • Make them feel, by calling and explaining, that they’re doing the right thing
  • Examine the crisis from their perspective (let them know you’re taking notes)
  • Assure them the process will be beneficial to them
  • Demonstrate that you’re committed to working with them and saving the relationship.

The behavior of the “S” in this situation is often described as diffident and may not be taken seriously, or can be settled with mere lip service. However, they’re just as upset as High D’s; they just express it in a much more low-key manner.

High ‘C’ Conscientious Styles won’t carp or cajole like High D’s or High I’s; they also won’t be submissive. Their complaints may have a sharper edge to them than the High S’s.

High C’s tend to recite the chronology of events, often from their notes. They will recite the litany of errors made. They provide data and documentation and get quite involved in the details of the snafu.

Here’s how you can lessen tension with complaining High C’s:

  • Acknowledge their factual documentation
  • Identify in the process what went wrong
  • Cite appreciation for it being brought to your attention
  • Confirm their contact—by email—and follow up promptly.

You may see them as compulsives (hung up on the process and on showing they’re right) versus getting the problem resolved. If you want to retain their business or loyalty, deal with them precisely and systematically.

So, look at your complaints as opportunities to show how much you really care about your customer. In fact, studies show that customers who feel a business has responded to their complaints are more likely than noncomplainers to do business again. They actually become more loyal than if the problem never happened. Thus, out of problem solving comes a business reward. |QR

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 30-plus books and is a renowned authority on understanding the behavior of others. He is an acknowledged expert in the field of defining human behavior to increase performance. To access a FREE recording which includes Dr. Tony Alessandra speaking on the topic, “The Solutions to Hiring the Right Salespeople & Avoiding the Wrong Ones,” visit

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More