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Complaint Handling: The 3 R’s – Regret, Reason and Ready

Learn About The 3R’s of Complaint Handling

Service failure or any other business failure for that matter is common. We are all fallible human beings after all. The trick is to acknowledge the mistake and attempt to resolve the situation early and amicably. The 3R’s is a very simple tool that will help you handle complaints better. It will prevent a simple mistake or misunderstanding from escalating to a full-blown conflict. It allows you to quickly recover the situation, and all parties to go away happy.

When confronted with a complaint simply follow the three steps below:

Step 1: Regret

‘This steak is not medium-rare, as I had ordered’.

This is your cue for the first step: Regret.

The first step to any complaint handling is to recognise that something has gone wrong by acknowledging the wrongdoing. Even if you are not at fault. Saying sorry, in a meaningful and sincere manner, is crucial. Often this first step is enough to de-escalate the situation.

‘Sorry Sir’.

Step 2: Reason

Even if you feel criticised, it is really important to provide a reason for the mistake. Avoid being defensive. Make sure you are clear that the wrongdoing was not intentional or personal, so keep to the facts. Try to put yourself in the complainant’s shoes and step back from the situation. Try to stay objective when handling the complaint.

‘The reason is that I wrote down your order incorrectly’.

Step 3: Remedy

Try to resolve the mistake there and then, if you can. Ask the complainant what they would like to happen and take responsibility to investigate, if required, and to provide feedback to them as soon as is practicable. Encourage colleagues to be proactive with their complaint handling too.

‘I will immediately get your a fresh steak cooked medium-rare. Would this be ok?’.

A Summary of the 3 R’s Complaint Handling Tool

Using the tool, the complete sentence looks like:

‘Sorry, Sir. The reason is that I wrote down your order incorrectly. I will immediately get your a fresh steak cooked medium-rare. Would this be ok?.’


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Conflict Resolution Skills and our Conflict Resolution Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Conflict Resolution Skills Tips and articles.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.

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