Whether the cause is an incorrect invoice, poor truck spacing or a disappointing mix, customers will get upset—and many times rightly so. However, as important as discovering how to prevent the problem in the future, is how to deal with the problem at hand.

Here is what every producer needs to know about interacting with an upset customer.

1. Don't get defensive. It will aggravate the situation. Instead, listen with an open mind. It truly does not matter who is at fault. Switch shoes with the customer and imagine how you would feel in his situation. Remember, that in addition to recovering service, you want to retain business.

2. Apologize sincerely and immediately. Do not over-apologize—just one good "I apologize that you had this experience" is enough. Your voice tone is important and your words must be felt.

3. Assure the customer you will fix the problem and then fix it. If the solution requires someone else in the company besides you, make sure to follow up with the associate. After all, if they did not experience the frustration of the customer, resolving the issue is likely less urgent to them.

4. Gain the customer's insight into the solution. If asked, they will tell you how they prefer the issue to be resolved. Find out what is the most useful or needed remedy for them, not necessarily what is easiest for you. This step builds rapport with the customer and encourages a relationship building conversation with the customer.

5. Surprise them. In addition to resolving the issue, find a way to catch your customer off guard in a positive way. A little gesture as a follow up phone call this day in age is almost shocking. Send them a hand written note or give them a 5% discount on their next load.

Make these steps part of your internal complaint handling process. If the complaint comes into dispatch, the company owner, operations manager, truck driver or quality control, it should be handled the same way.

When the customer complains, it is an opportunity. Treat it as such. After all, he could choose to walk quietly away.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Telephone 513-793-9582 or email joan@joanfox.com.