In a major study of seven hundred service incidents from the airline, hotel, and restaurant industries, researchers found that of all positive memories customers have of good service, fully 25 percent started out as some kind of failure in service delivery.

The lesson to management is critical. Businesses do not need to run away from service breakdowns. Each company representative has a chance to turn a negative situation into a positive experience for the customer.

Janelle Barlow,
A Complaint Is a Gift, Third Edition, 2022


Service and sales people typically fail at complaint handling because they:

  • Are not sure what effective complaint handling is about, what role they play, and why they must learn a variety of tools to use depending on the customer in front of them;
  • Do not know the behaviors required of them to show customers the personal attention and personalized service they need to receive when facing problems to be brought to a feeling of wholeness;
  • Fail to collect important information from conversations with customers and then add this information to internal systems, so that future mistakes are avoided;
  • Are unable to distinguish between emotional and cognitive responses from customers so they can appropriately respond.

The above behaviors are fairly easy to learn. A Complaint Is a Gift is not only a practical “how-to” customer service program that takes participants into the world of customer relationships, but also provokes and inspires changes in related mindsets, attitudes, and habits.

This program is based on 30 years of research reflected in materials that have shaped  organizational life around the world. These ideas were first discussed in the book, A Complaint Is A Gift, published in 1996 and then updated and revised as a 2nd edition in 2008. The book has been a best-seller published in more than 25 languages around the world. Now it’s available in a revised and updated 3rd edition!


A complaint is like an early warning system. It’s not so different from the message a spider receives when something enters its web. For the spider, it’s lunch time! For a business, it’s time to pay attention! Do you know how many new customers you gained last quarter? Perhaps more  importantly, do you know how many you lost and why? Do you know if the customers who left you gave you a warning by leaving a complaint with someone in your organization? And how that complaint was handled the primary factor that pushed these customers out the door?

A Complaint Is a Gift is a performance-based customer-centric service webinar or an online learning program about turning  complaining customers into business opportunities, regaining unhappy customer trust, and keeping them as customers — perhaps even as more loyal customers. Service providers understand that feedback helps organizations to improve. But that doesn’t mean that they like receiving negative feedback.

Everyone would prefer to receive positive feedback. Improved performance in this aspect of customer service requires learning how to respond in a way so conflict is diminished, emotions are handled, problems are solved, and loyalty is gained. Complaint handling is truly performance based. You can know all the statistics ever produced in this field and that won’t help when facing an angry customer who is determined to leave your organization if you don’t go all out for them. Techniques and understanding are vital.

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