What to do when you receive a customer complaint about your employee’s performance

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In my previous articles, I provide warnings to managers who rely on indirect sources of information about employees’ performance in providing performance feedback.  I generally advocate that a manager use direct observation to provide performance feedback, as this is the path that most likely will generate improved performance.  Relying on indirect sources tends to erode trust and is often very confusing.  I provide some tips on what to do about “indirect sources” here.

But there are times when you receive some sort of feedback about your employee’s performance that doesn’t allow you to wait until you can notice a trend and/or perform more direct observation.  A common scenario is when you receive a complaint from a customer about something one of your employees has done.  So let’s talk about what to do in this scenario!

1. Get info from the customer about what happened.

When a customer complains to you about what the employee did, try to get the points of fact about the situation, what was said and done during the situation, and where things stand now (has the issue actually been resolved, or does it still need resolution?”)  Often with complaints – and if you are speaking directly with the customer – the details are fairly fresh in the customer’s mind – and usually given right away after the situation, so it is possible to get fairly specific quotes about what your employee said, specific info about what your employee did.  Try to write these quotes/actions down and understand as many of the “facts” of the situation possible.  Of course, if you receive this complaint indirectly (like via a survey), then this option is not available.

2. Resolve the customer issue/inform that you will take action

When a customer complains, there are often two complaints wrapped in one.   Read more