5 Guaranteed Steps to Handle Customer Complaints for Your Business Success

November 22, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Let’s cite some irrevocable facts of business:

It is undeniable that your customers are the lifeblood of your business. It is also undeniable that despite your best efforts, sometimes mistakes happen and you will disappoint your customers. It is even more undeniable that disappointed customers are simply bad business.

So, what do you do?

You prepare yourself for the inevitable and handle bad customer experiences properly. Handling these negative experiences and the complaints they usually amount to is a delicate art. Luckily, if you follow these five steps you can turn any complaint into a master piece of great customer experience. You can even end up with a loyal patron that wi9ll voluntarily put in the good word for your business and how it treats its customers.

  1. Attend To and Assess the Situation – NEVER ignore a complaint. It doesn’t matter if it complaints aren’t pouring in; even if only a handful of people are complaining, you should address each and every one as much as possible. In fact, it’s a very bad situation when customers have a bad experience with your business and NOT tell you. You’d want them to tell you so you can do something about it. Now before you attend top the complaint, you need to assess the situation with what data is at hand. You should even have a meeting with the employees involved to get a better picture even before you ask the customer (if possible). You need a game plan before you play the game. Never assume, and always be constructive.
  2. Listen proactively – Listening proactively in this case means two very significant things: NOT listening reactively (reacting to every single thing the customer complains about), and NOT listening selectively. Proactive listening entails never interrupting the customer rudely (or at all, if possible) and empathizing with their situation. It also entails looking out for key words that could tell you more about the situation than your customer is consciously telling you. When you’re listening proactively, you also want to coax more information from your customer, such as what he or she would’ve wanted to experience instead or what he or she suggests as a solution (this is AFTER you resolve the situation yourself). Proactive listening spans the length of your interaction with your customer and not just during the complaint.
  3. Communicate Appropriately – Cool off before engaging with a disgruntled, even irate customer. Remain calm but nevertheless empathic because this is what is appropriate. Communicate professionally but not coldly. And always, always extend what convenient, most effective method of communication is possible: be it face to face, over the phone, or on the web. Communicating appropriately also includes your tone of voice and your wording, even your body language if you’re face to face with a customer. In case you are not able to talk to a customer when you try to reach out to customers over the phone or through email (or any other method where it’s applicable), leave a message and several ways to contact you back to resolve the situation.
  4. Remember: the Customer is ALWAYS Right – This oft-used trinket of consumerist wisdom applies in communicating appropriately, but is of too vast a significance that we need to reiterate it here. In the scenario where a customer complains, you are the business and they are the client. They are always in the right. Understand that this isn’t very literal, but you have to act that way. Take a look at it this way: you’ll have to apologize. Even if your business wasn’t wrong – you have to apologize because the customers felt the way they did. It might have been a misunderstanding but they still felt wronged. And yes, always, always apologize. Even if you have to word it to avoid self-blame: “We apologize you feel that way.” Aside from the words “We’re sorry,” it’s always best not to dispute a refund from a complaint. Think of it as a small investment towards good will. All your goods and services should come with a money-back guarantee anyway. Lastly, don’t just say you’re sorry. Show you are. Follow up with a small trinket like a surprise gift a few days later.
  5. Request Feedback – We already covered how negative feedback is better than no feedback at all. During the time you resolve the issue your customer is having, always attempt to draw out as much of your customers’ thoughts on the matter as possible. Of course, you would want to address the issue first before bombarding them with survey questions. They’re who you’re servicing after all; they should know what they want.

Handling customer complaints and bad experiences is no walk in the park, but if you handle them artfully, your business will garner its rightful stellar reputation.


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Category: Business, Customer Service, Online Reputation

Melinda Gonzalez

Melinda Gonzalez()


“I love marketing (especially online). I love small business. Bringing them together is my bliss.” Melina has 17 years of marketing experience which has included working with small and medium-sized businesses in the service, education, technology, finance & construction industries. She has a deep seeded passion to help small business solve their pressing marketing dilemmas. Melinda is from North Vancouver and received her degree from The University of Michigan (Ross School of Business).


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