Has someone brought to your attention a situation, incident or problem related to your business?  Perhaps it was a loose railing on a staircase, an obstruction or hole in the parking lot, or an employee who may have acted inappropriately? If someone has brought this type of information to you, now is the time to act, and act immediately.                

Awareness should be a call to action and not something to attend to tomorrow. Along with the obvious risk management factor, serving your customers through solving problems says you respect their feedback and concerns.              

How should you respond when a customer brings a situation to your attention? First, take the time to thank the customer for their concern and making you aware of the problem. Don’t just say, “we are aware of it” and walk away. Listen carefully to what the customer is saying and how they are saying it.  Are they being more informative than angry? Are they expressing a broad-based concern or talking about something that is bothering them individually? You can learn a lot about the situation from speech, actions and body language. This will help you respond appropriately and responsibly.                 

Apologize for the situation and assure the customer that something will be done immediately to remedy the problem. This demonstrates you are sincere in your approach to accepting feedback and you have the welfare of your customers and employees as a top priority. It is good at this point to have the person take you to where they spotted the problem and discuss their concerns. Look at the environment surrounding the situation for clues to what may have happened and why.                 

Taking it a step further, ask the customer what you can do to help at this particular moment, or what immediate need they have. It may be as simple as them making you aware of the situation, or asking for some type of action on your part. Acknowledging there may be an immediate need shows you are interested in serving that customer without delay and willing to give your full attention to solve the matter.                 

It is helpful to take photos and make notes of the concern and the situation if you can at this point. Ask if any witnesses were present at the time and ask for their input as well. Always get the person’s contact information, if they will allow you to do so, in case follow-up is required.                 

Then as best as you are able at the time, tell the person what you plan to do, such as roping off a dangerous area and repairing it immediately, or speaking with a potentially recalcitrant employee today.  These actions show you mean business and are taking their concerns seriously.                   

If you feel it is appropriate, offer the customer a token of your appreciation — a gift certificate, some product, or a coupon for a return visit to your operation. Use caution here though, as you don’t want a customer to feel you are gifting them something so they will be pacified and forget the matter. An incentive can be used to genuinely reflect your appreciation, but you must present it as such. Also ask if you can follow up with them when the problem has been resolved so you can share with them how you handled things. Monitor social media for any repercussions or negative reviews that might follow a complaint and let customers know how you have addressed the concern.                 

Not all complaints can be handled as smoothly as you would like, and if necessary you may need to get additional assistance. If other parties become involved, having good documentation of the situation will be vital. And if situations escalate and you feel it may compromise the safety of other customers and employees, try to isolate people from the scene and direct others to call for back up assistance.                 

Simple awareness is not enough; awareness should be a call to action. Don’t allow problems or situations to remain open-ended. Fix the problem, document what you have done to resolve the issue and move forward to manage your business with integrity. Accept feedback for the positive difference it can make and appreciate that your customers feel comfortable enough to bring situations to your attention.                  

The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.