6 tips for dealing with customer complaints

Customer complaints are a part of business. They’re not fun, but it’s vital to handle them the right way if you want to run a successful business.

The first thing to keep in mind is that businesses are run by humans, and services are bought by humans – which means mistakes on both sides are bound to happen.

Secondly, it’s important to note that complaints are not always a bad thing. Often product and service improvements are developed through negative feedback from customers.

If someone is complaining usually it means they care.  If they’re complaining about your products and services they care enough to let you know when they feel that standards have slipped.

With complaints against your product or service now very much visible thanks to public online platforms, it’s crucial to be able to effectively deal with complaints both online and offline.

So if you’ve just received a complaint or poor online review, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and try some of these tips.

1. Have a strategy for both online and offline complaints

It’s important to have separate strategies for dealing with a customer complaint depending on where it appears.

However, the way you handle an online complaint should be similar to the way you’d deal with it offline.

When getting stuck with approaching online complaints think ‘how would I handle this if this was a complaint I received over the telephone, in my restaurant, shop or office?’

Know what you are prepared to do in advance of a complaint happening.

For example, are you happy to provide a full refund or provide a replacement?  What could you do to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer again?

READ: When online reviews are fake news

2. Acknowledge the complaint as soon as possible

The best way to avoid an escalation of a problem is to tackle it as soon as you can.

In order to respond effectively to a complaint, it’s always good to have the facts at hand – but don’t wait until you have all the facts to respond.

I suggest letting the customer know that you have received their complaint and will respond as soon as you’ve gathered some information on the situation.

3. Gather the facts

Don’t make assumptions as to whether the customer is right or wrong.

Research the situation and see if the customer has a point.

Respond when you’re confident you understand the situation and what’s gone wrong or where confusion or a misunderstanding has taken place.

You’ll feel more confident and not immediately take a defensive position.

4. Be polite and professional

It’s always important to take the customer at their word, even if it sounds unbelievable, and to respond maintaining professionalism at all times.

Remember if you’re responding online the way you respond will be seen by others, so it’s important to make a good impression.

Use your manners and thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.

Politely point out a ‘miscommunication’ that may have occurred by the customer but try and avoid blame.

READ: Coaching your staff on customer service

5. Learn to take criticism (but not roll over!)

Bad reviews can happen.

They may be unfair and reflect poorly on the business – but it’s important to not let them get you down.

Respond to specifics of the review that may be incorrect without openly saying the customer is wrong.

Explain that most customers have had a different experience and you are sorry that it wasn’t like that for them.

You can even gently explain that perhaps your business or product maybe isn’t a good match for them.

6. One last word on the ‘perpetual whinger’

There are people who are serial complainers and who are never pleased and complain about businesses, services and products constantly.

If you encounter one of these people, don’t beat yourself up because at the end of the day you can’t appease them.

Be professional and stay true to yourself.

Just know you are not the first and won’t be the last business they complain about, and maybe no one is listening to them anyway.