It’s difficult to find a single business that won’t tell you that customer service isn’t central to its philosophy — and for good reason. It’s common knowledge that customers are less likely to bring their business back to a company if they feel they’ve had a less than adequate customer service experience.

It’s easy for a company to claim to practice excellent customer service, and delivering adequate customer service to a majority of your customers can seem simple. However, there are always customers who are seemingly impossible to please. Whether it’s unrealistic expectations or just plain confused, these customers can be encountered by any business.

Every day at Better Business Bureau (BBB) we receive complaints that boil down to a lack of communication on the part of both the business and the consumer. A customer may have misunderstood a piece of marketing, or didn’t understood why their bill was so high and in some cases thought they were buying something other than what they ended purchasing.

Before a consumer files a complaint with us we tell them they should first bring their issue directly to the business, if they haven’t already. So many of the complaints we process are a result of businesses and consumers being unable to settle their disagreement on their own, either because the consumer didn’t communicate their problem or because emotion overran the communication.

What we’ve discovered in these cases is that once we facilitate better communication between both parties through our complaint process, we’re able to settle the vast majority of these complaints amicably – in fact we settled 72 percent last year.

Ideally BBB would never receive complaints like these. Although most are settled to the satisfaction of both the business and the consumer, it’s still a time consuming process for both parties, and the consumer will always be happier if they’re able to settle their disagreement with business without the help of a third-party.

To be sure, there are instances when consumers make unreasonable demands of a business, and there may not be a way the business can make the customer happy.

Even in these cases there are proper ways to go about dealing with the customer’s grievances, if for no other reason than to be sure you’ve exhausted every customer service technique available in an effort to make the customer happy.

Carol Tice, a writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, recently came up with seven customer service tips businesses can use when dealing with unhappy customers. The tips are simple, but they can be very powerful when attempting to communicate with a disgruntled customer.

• Listen. Sometimes, customers just need to know someone at a company is interested in their problem, notes John Tschohl, co-author of “Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service.”

• Apologize. Don’t engage in fault-finding or laying blame, but do let the customer know you are sorry they had a problem, says Tschohl.

• Take them seriously. Customers’ questions may seem ridiculous, but they’re important to that customer. Try not to laugh.

• Stay calm. Customers may be irate, frustrated, or just irritating. But don’t get down to that level, ever. Just staying calm can make customers feel you care and have the ability to help them.

• Suggest solutions. Help-desk workers should have the power to resolve more than 95 percent of customer issues without having to pass the customer on to another person. Allow line workers to give out free coupons, accept returns, give refunds, and take other needed remedies without having to consult someone else. They can offer customers a range of options for resolving their problem, and get the job done, Tschohl says.

• Be available. These days, smart customer service means setting up a help desk on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else your customers hang out online.

• Acknowledge your limits. If you’re asked a crazy question or given an unrealistic demand, simply say you’re sorry the request isn’t within the scope of what your company provides. You can’t be everything to everyone.

Sometimes it’s impossible for a business to avoid a complaint, but too often the complaints we receive could be avoided with better initial communication between the business and the consumer. Customer service isn’t an exact science, but if you stress communication and patience in each interaction with your customers you’ll find that your customer service policy increasingly leads to customer satisfaction.

Contact Kim States, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, at or (520) 888-6161. The BBB website is On Guard appears the first week of each month in Inside Tucson Business.