Three Steps for Effectively Handling a Customer Complaint


Share on LinkedIn

We all wish we could keep our customers happy all the time, but customer complaints are an occupational hazard in the business world. No matter how good your product or service is, you will likely find yourself dealing with unhappy customers on occasion and how well you handle these customer complaints can make or break your business. Handle them well and the chances are those unhappy customers will appreciate how you dealt with the situation and become repeat customers. They may even recommend your product or service to others, having had a positive customer service experience. Handle them poorly, however, and you run the risk of not only losing those customers for good but seeing the complaints and negative reviews broadcast all over social media.

The following are the three most important steps for effectively handling a customer complaint:


Listen attentively

Customers want to be heard, especially if they are unhappy about a product you sold them or a service you provided that didn’t meet their expectations. In dealing with an unhappy customer, carefully listening to what the customer has to say and ensure that you understand the issue is the first step in reaching an equitable resolution. Ask questions about the customer’s experience and make a note of how you can avoid the same problem in the future. Direct feedback from real customers is a great way to identify areas of your business that need improvement, especially if you receive similar complaints from other customers.


Empathize and apologize

Regardless of whether you think the customer’s complaint is valid, being genuinely empathetic and apologizing for the situation creates a bond between the two of you. When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter if the customer is right or wrong. What matters is that you validate the customer’s concerns and show that you are willing to resolve the issue. If the customer is angry or upset, remaining calm and speaking in an even, reassuring tone is the best way to diffuse the situation and avoid aggravating the customer further.


Offer and execute a solution

Consider the customer’s complaint and concerns and offer a reasonable solution. If you need to speak to your manager or supervisor, let the customer know that you will discuss the situation with the team. If the customer asks for something that isn’t possible, try to find some other way to remedy the situation in a similar way, rather than denying the request outright. Once you come to an agreement on the appropriate solution, put the plan into action right away. A prompt resolution improves the chances of the customer putting the negative experience to rest and moving on.

Why Good Customer Service is So Important

Good customer service is the cornerstone of a successful business strategy. and when it comes to knowing how to handle customer complaints, it pays to have a procedure in place as part of your business plan. A business plan is a formal written document that lays out your business goals, how you plan to achieve those goals and the time frame for doing so. If you aren’t sure how to write a business plan, you can find a business plan template online to get you started. When you are writing your business plan, think about the steps you will take to ensure that your company provides quality customer service. Not only can good customer service to strengthen your brand, reduce employee turnover and create endorsements, it also builds strong relationships and fosters customer loyalty, which is the key to growing your business. After all, research shows that it costs six to seven times more to attract new customers than it does to retain existing customers and happy customers are more likely to return to make new purchases and recommend your product or service to others.

Jean Paul De Silva Clauwaert
JP is the owner of V12 Strategies. He is a business growth and sales expert with over a decade of experience. His educational background is unique as he received the majority of his education through a military academy. JP worked as a designer for many years on large-scale building projects. He then was trained as a Business and Sales Consultant.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here