The L.A.S.T. resort to handling complaints

I attended a workshop on handling complaints recently and learned a few useful tips that can be applied not only to the workplace but also to other interpersonal contexts.
  • The three steps to take in handling complaints are cooling down yourself, helping the other person to cool down and solving the problem, and it is crucial that the steps should be taken in this order.
  • Of course when people complain, it is invariably about something or someone, but at a deeper level, there is always some untold reasons which prompted them to take the trouble to make the complaint. They may be trying to seek attention. They may be seeking help to more than just solve the problem at hand. They may be trying to serve some self-interest. Or they may simply be having some mental problems. The appropriate strategy may be worked out according to one's judgement of that agenda or reason behind the complaint.
  • A useful service recovery approach is L.A.S.T., which is the acronym for Listen, Apologise, Solve and Thank. Of these, apologising is probably the most difficult thing to do, especially when you think that it is not your fault or the customer is rude. But an apology doesn't have to be an admission of wrongdoing or guilt. It can be a sincere expression of sorrow that the matter has led to inconvenience or bad feeling on the part of the customer. (Here is a good blog on this L.A.S.T. approach.)
  • Simply seeking to judge the right and wrong and then respond accordingly is almost certainly not a good tactic in handling complaints. In fact, it may even be disastrous. After all, it can be very difficult to determine what or who is right under a given situation, especially when you yourself have a stake in it.
Successful handling of a complaint can make a world of difference to all parties concerned.

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