BLASTing Through Customer Complaints

May 12, 2017

BY BRITTANIE MCLEOD – PROJECT MANAGER

Recently I was reminded of a concept that’s proved useful in setting aside ego and keeping the customer top of mind: the BLAST Principle (Believe, Listen, Apologize, Satisfy, Thank). I received a call from a client who was upset about a delayed timeline. My immediate reaction was defensiveness—we’d proactively communicated the delay, the reasons behind the delay, and even included out of scope work to make up for it! How could we not be on the same page?!

A teammate who was sitting near me overheard the call and promptly pulled a piece of paper off her desk with the BLAST Principle written on it, and handed it to me during the call. It was an immediate attitude check. Instead of digging my heels in, I started asking questions to gain an understanding of the factors at play.

What was my client’s perception of the situation? What were their expectations and how had they not been met? Were there drivers influencing their frustration—pressure from leadership or internal business goals they were trying to meet? If I were in my client’s shoes, would I feel wronged? Better yet, how can I make it right?

This article by Albert Barneto reviews the BLAST Principle from the perspective of a restaurant with a customer complaint, but the guidelines are still applicable to any type of service or account management role. As Barneto states, the Blast Principle will “allow you to create a standardized method for dealing with your complainers and turning them into loyal customers.” Since I work for a B2B company, our customers are other businesses. Each of these accounts should be managed in a way that creates long-lasting relationships.

I strongly suggest reading the entire article, but here’s a summary of each of the five components of the BLAST Principle.

BELIEVE

This one’s pretty straightforward—simply take what they’re saying as fact. Sure, a customer could be lying, but think of your job as a problem solver instead of an interrogator.

LISTEN

There’s a big difference between listening and politely waiting for your chance to rebut. Actually listen to what your customer is complaining about and put yourself in their position. After all, chances are we’ve all been on the other end of the line before.

APOLOGIZE

A genuine apology might not solve the problem, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Letting a fuming customer know that you accept responsibility for how they’re feeling helps things progress smoothly.

SATISFY

Now is your time to shine. Be the hero your customer is searching for. For example, if your company’s headphone case broke unexpectedly, replace it.

THANK

Even though it may not seem like it, when a customer complains they are giving you a chance to retain them as a future customer. They are telling you their expectations, showing you where you fell short, and prompting you to make amends. That’s much better than writing you off completely and telling their entire network of friends and family how terrible you are. Thank them for taking time out of their day to, ultimately, help you become a better company.

As for my experience with the upset client mentioned above, I ended up BLASTing through the conversation and realized all the client really needed was more frequent communication about the project. We agreed that establishing a check-in cadence between milestones would proactively address any anxieties around being behind schedule and we both left the conversation feeling motivated instead of irritated.

Add the BLAST Principle to your mental customer service toolbox—or better yet, print it out and have it handy the next time you catch your hackles rising at a customer complaint.