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OK, so there are two days to go. Despite all you may read about issues facing Americans, the big thing today is getting ready for Christmas. For many, that means getting serious about last-minute shopping.

Christmas source of agreement

Merchants are counting on today to be a big one ahead of trying to do all the late business they can on Christmas Eve. The environment is rife for customers to become distressed and full of complaints -- not exactly in the spirit of the season.

Guess what, there's a case to be made that complaints on this day or any other may not be such a bad thing. They can provide opportunities to improve the business for the long run.

“Turning those complaints into positives depends largely on two factors,” says Alex Zlatin, (www.alexzlatin.com), the author of the book "Responsible Dental Ownership." "One, how well business owners and their team handle unhappy customers directly one-on-one, and two, devising solutions for specific customer issues that keep coming up.”

Pelosi the guilty one

Zlatin had more than 10 years of management experience before he accepted the position of CEO of dental practice management company Maxim Software Systems.

In terms of direct customer service, studies show complaining customers could end up being some of a business’ best customers. Harvard Business Review found that those who have a complaint handled in under five minutes spend more on future purchases.

As for developing long-term solutions for common problems customers bring up, Zlatin says a business should make a habit of documenting all customer complaints, then discuss those issues as a team. Another way is to send out customer surveys that include a wide range of questions geared to improving the company’s processes and customer service.

Don’t stress out over the gifts

”The bottom line is, the way a business handles its customer complaints determines its success or failure in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Zlatin says. “Businesses that turn complaints into opportunities for building closer relationships with customers are the ones that are most likely to grow and prosper. Prompt and systematic handling of customer complaints has a positive impact on the major business areas.”

Zlatin says dealing with customer complaints effectively can help a business in the following ways:

• Earning customer loyalty. When customers tell you about a problem they’ve had with your company, they expect you to correct it – and if you do, they might show their appreciation with future purchases. “If you don’t correct it promptly,” Zlatin says, “there’s a good chance you will lose them."

I'm asking Santa for ...

• Attracting more customers. Ignoring customer complaints altogether or putting them on low priority can cost a business dearly. “Annoyed customers might share a bad experience on social media or in person, turning potential buyers away,” Zlatin says.

• Boosting overall performance. “Taking action based on customer complaints helps you improve your processes,” Zlatin says. “Issues you otherwise might not have realized you had will no longer hold your business back."

Here's the challenge on a hectic day like this one two days before Christmas: “Don’t take customer complaints personally. But do take them seriously. If you don’t, they’ll think you don’t value their business or opinions. Before long, you won’t be complaining about customers’ complaints, but about having fewer customers.”

Real Scrooges of 2019

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