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Even complaints have a silver lining!

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Complaints may not be pleasant but see them as a form of feedback and an opportunity to re-evaluate how you operate, writes Natanya McLenaghan.

Nobody wants them, and we certainly don’t want to have to deal with them, but complaints happen. And while they are unpleasant, complaints are usually giving us valuable feedback and the opportunity to re-assess how we operate.

But the question we must sometimes ask is why is the customer making a complaint? Is it because we have failed to deliver on what we promise and there are flaws in our procedures? Or maybe it isn’t even us, and the customer is suffering from an illness, or they are coping with a stressful situation in their life, and the slightest issue becomes a ‘first world problem’?

Nevertheless, we must reassure the customer we understand their dilemma and we are going to find a resolution. By endeavouring to find a solution, and ensuring measures are put in place to prevent it from happening again, will not only gain the customer’s approval, it will help to build trust so they have confidence in you to help with any future problems.

Real life

We had a customer whose scripts we kept on file and signed up to our SMS service to receive an alert when they were ready. But on several occasions, this did not occur. From the customer’s perspective, she was very annoyed for a number of reasons:

We signed her up to our SMS service to make her prescription ordering more efficient. But when she came in they were not ready, and she had to wait for a lot of scripts to be dispensed ahead of her! Crucially, we had said all these great things about our SMS service, yet we failed on all counts.

As a result, the customer lost trust and stop using us regularly. However after about six months, the customer came in again and was served by another staff member, who was unaware of what had occurred. The customer soon filled her in about what had happened. Fortunately, the staff member was very empathetic and provided the customer with an alternative option to prevent the situation occurring again. The customer was very satisfied with the result; and she now is back as a script-on-file patient and we receive her undivided business again.



  1. Don’t take the complaint personally.
  2. Really nut down to what is the actual problem—asking all the questions required and obtaining all the answers to get the best outcome.
  3. Show understanding, regardless of who is right or wrong.
  4. Ensure the customer feels you do understand by telling them you do and let them know you are endeavouring to make things right for them and how it will be prevented from happening in the future.
  5. Deliver, not only talk the talk, walk the walk!
  6. Check with the customer the next time to see how things are. While we may be apprehensive as we don’t want our head bitten off again, this usually goes a long way in the customers eyes, as it shows care.

Dealing with complaints is about turning a bad situation into a positive one. In fact, there is much to be gained from doing this—as taking a fresh look at how things operate can be good for the customer, and it’s good for business.

Natanya is the Guild Pharmacy Assistant of the Year.



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