8 Tips on How to Handle Customer Complaints

Customer complaints are a part of life as a business owner. These 8 tips help you handle issues effectively so you can build better customer relationships.

It's been said that you can't please everyone, and you may find that's especially true if you serve the public as a small business owner. 

Having a solid strategy in your back pocket when customer complaints do arise helps you handle these challenging moments with grace. In fact, you may even be able to count the unhappy individual among your return customers one day. 

Start building your response protocol with these 8 tried-and-true tips.


Why Is It Important to Respond to Customer Complaints? 

It can be tempting to ignore customer complaints, especially if you aren't sure how to respond. However, your business may be able to recover from a big gaffe simply by offering a simple apology. If you don't respond at all, you'll lose at least one customer – and most likely more. 

Unfortunately, people tend to spread the word about bad business experiences more often than they share the love for good ones.

8 Tips on How to Handle Customer Complaints

Complaints arise when a customer's experience with your business doesn't match their expectations. Regardless of how and why the disconnect occurred, these 8 tips will help you set it right. 

1. Be Accessible

Before your business ever receives its first complaint, establish avenues where customers can reach your team in case of an issue. If you don't have a physical store location, you should set up a dedicated email account and phone line for customer service.

Many companies even invest in a live chat function for fast, automated problem-solving when minor glitches occur. 

Make sure to monitor email and voicemail so you can return messages promptly. It can compound the problem if an already upset customer feels they've been ignored by your business. 

2. Stay Level-Headed

Emotions can run high when someone says something unkind about your business. It's especially tough to remain calm in the face of unfounded complaints. However, keeping a cool head will help you get to the bottom of the situation and turn a negative into a positive. 

On the other hand, losing your temper and exchanging harsh words with a customer can seriously jeopardize your business reputation. Try not to take criticism personally; instead, focus on how you can turn around a tough situation and hopefully keep your customer. 

3. Get Curious

You can find out a lot about how to fix the problem by asking open-ended questions. Sometimes, customers just want to express their discontent and feel heard. Some of the queries you might want to make include:

  • Can you please explain the issue? 
  • Are you able to provide more details?
  • Can you give an example of what you mean?

Gathering information allows you to fully understand the problem so you can make the necessary corrections.

4. Practice Active Listening

Your body language shows your customer that you're truly hearing their concerns. Avoid multitasking – stop what you're doing and really listen to what the person has to say. When they're done speaking, rephrase the information in your own words. 

This step shows that you connect with and understand the message. It also gives the person a chance to clarify any points you've missed. 

5. Make a Sincere Acknowledgement

At this point, you're also acknowledging the issue the customer has with your business. Remember that acknowledgement doesn't mean that you agree that you've done something wrong; it simply expresses that you respect the person's point of view and plan to take the necessary steps to make it right. 

For example, you can say something like, "I can certainly understand why you're frustrated." You can even thank the person for alerting you about a problem so you can fix it. 

6. Suggest a Solution

Once you've reached an understanding with your customer, it's time to apologize and offer a possible solution. Depending on the situation, you might refund their purchase price, provide a complementary product or service, or suggest another item of value. 

Above all, it's important to give a sincere apology and express how much you value the person's choice to work with your company. 

7. Keep Careful Notes

A pattern of similar customer complaints can reveal a larger issue. Keeping track of the types of criticism your business receives allows you to make adjustments that improve your service, retain your clients, and attract new audiences.

8. Commit to Future Follow-up

Set a calendar reminder to reach out to your customer in a few weeks. You can check up on the solution you provided, find out how your product or service is working out now that you've solved the problem, and even offer a coupon for a future visit. 

Taking this step improves the chances that you've created a customer for life rather than losing someone who won't bother to come back after a bad experience.

What You Can Learn from Customer Complaints

Customer complaints provide insight into things your company can do better. They create the opportunity to turn negative feedback into positive growth. Some of the advantages of hearing and effectively responding to complaints include:

  • Improving customer trust with reassurance that you'll handle issues that arise, which in turn enhances their loyalty
  • Revealing issues that compromise your company's ability to achieve objectives and become sustainable so you can address these problems
  • Increasing your ability to refine operations, reducing costs and improving efficiency
  • Gathering meaningful information about what your target market wants and how you can meet those needs
  • Providing chances for your team to expand their knowledge and abilities
  • Building your brand's reputation in your community and online

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The Bottom Line 

It's hard to avoid customer complaints as a business owner, but these situations don't necessarily need to be negative. In fact, when handled appropriately, issues raised can strengthen your relationship and even improve the way your company operates. 

These 8 tips provide a toolkit to develop a strong, satisfactory response to customer complaints before they come up.

Payment concerns can create major issues that compromise the success of your business. When you use Pay.com, you'll have a full-service payment infrastructure at your fingertips so you can customize the checkout experience based on what your customers really want. 

You'll also have the peace of mind that comes from top-level security measures, so you don't have to worry about the impact of a data breach on your business reputation.

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What's the best way to handle customer complaints?

It's best for business owners to handle customer complaints with confidence and a cool head. After all, your actions and your demeanor reflect upon your brand. Respond to issues raised by your customers as quickly as possible. Acknowledge the problem and gather as much information as you need to develop an amenable solution that preserves the relationship.

What do you say to an angry customer?

When faced with an angry customer, it's best to remain as calm as possible. In fact, it can even help diffuse the situation if you patiently listen to the person's complaints. Once they've had a chance to get their issues on the table, you can rephrase what they said to show you were listening and ask questions to clarify the exact issue so you can alleviate it.

How do you apologize to an unsatisfied customer?

To apologize to an unsatisfied customer, speak honestly and sincerely. Even if you don't think your business is at fault, acknowledging their unhappiness and saying that you're sorry can go a long way toward improving the situation. Your apology should also suggest how you can make up for the issue and hopefully encourage the person to become a repeat customer.

Meet the author
Andrea Miller
Andrea Miller has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. Specializing in business and finance, she has written for some of the major websites in the financial sector. Outside of work, she spends most of her time with her family and enjoys hiking, yoga, and reading.
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