8 Tips On How To Handle Customer Complaints (Plus How To Solve Them)

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business.

Without your customers’ approval, your business would never grow, which is why customer service is so crucially important. More now than ever, thanks to the internet and social media, your customers are becoming increasingly vocal about their experiences with businesses – whether it’s good or bad.

Unfortunately for customer-centric businesses, no matter how well you treat your customers and no matter how efficiently you run your business, you will receive a customer complaint at some point. Considering that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers make a complaint to the company, and an unhappy customer will tell about 15 people about their bad experience, chances are you’ve already lost some business due to unhappy customers without even knowing it. 

Nobody likes to handle customer complaints, but these sometimes painful occurrences can be a chance for you and your business to shine. This is your opportunity to create a happy and loyal customer for life.

Excellent customer service should always be a priority, but in the unfortunate event that you receive a customer complaint, here are eight tips on how to handle it.

1. Stay Calm

It might be extremely difficult to do, but it’s imperative that you stay calm when handling a customer complaint. This can be hard, especially since your business is probably a point of immense pride for you. But don’t take the complaint personally, it’s not a personal attack. Often, a customer complaint will highlight an area that you can improve upon within your business.

Not only that, but getting upset, losing your cool, or yelling at a customer is never a good thing. You are more likely to make good progress and satisfy your customer’s needs if you approach the problem with a calm state of mind.

2. Listen

Frequently, if a customer has taken the time to come to you with a problem, it means that they want to be heard. Even if the complaint seems trivial to you, it clearly has some significance to them because they are taking their time to reach out to you.

It’s true that sometimes people complain just because they are having a bad day, but keep in mind that we all have bad days and you never know what is going on in that person’s life. 

Active listening techniques can, and should, be used with your customers all the time. Don’t assume that you know what the customer wants or needs and don’t dismiss them as trivial either. Hear them out and pay close attention to what they’re saying. When frustrated, people can have a hard time expressing their concerns or what they need from you to make them happy. Allowing your customer to talk will give him or her time to calm down. Often, an issue can be resolved just by listening to your customers and allowing them to vent.

3. Be Kind

Anger and frustration can be diffused easily if you remain kind and understanding. You can tell your customer straight away that you appreciate them reaching out about their concerns and that you want to understand exactly how they are feeling. A statement such as this from the get-go lets your customer know that you truly care and that you are ready to listen. When a customer knows that you truly care, you are well on your way to finding a reasonable resolution to the customer complaint. 

4. Acknowledge the Issue

After you’ve heard them out, acknowledge the problem and repeat it back to the customer. Paraphrasing what your customer has said and repeating it back to them lets them know that you listened and that you understand what the problem is.

Acknowledging the problem does not mean that you are agreeing with what the customer has to say, it just means that you understand them and respect where they are coming from. You can say things like, “I understand this must be very frustrating for you,” or, “If I understand you correctly…” then follow up with the paraphrased rendition of the complaint.

5. Apologize and Thank Them

It may feel difficult, but swallowing your pride and apologizing for your customer’s poor experience will put you miles ahead of the game. As with acknowledgment, apologizing does not mean that you are agreeing with the customer, nor are you taking the blame. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but thanking your customer for reaching out with their issue will also show that you’re always trying to improve your business. It demonstrates that you are understanding where they are coming from and that you are ready to resolve the problem for them.

6. Ask Questions

After you’ve listened to your customer’s complaint and the individual has had a chance to calm down, it’s your turn to take the initiative and get all the facts. Now is the time that you can calmly start asking questions for clarification. Start a genuine conversation with your customer. Between being kind, listening, acknowledging, and apologizing, you will have started gaining your customer’s trust.

However, it is imperative that you do not ask questions that your customer has already answered. Making them repeat themselves can heighten emotions again and make your customer feel like you weren’t listening in the first place.

7. Make It Speedy

Once you’ve gathered all of the information you need, now is your chance to find a solution that makes everyone happy, especially your customer. The faster you find a reasonable solution that everyone can agree on, the happier your customer will be and you get to breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s important to be flexible here. While it’s important to follow your company protocols and guidelines, it’s also important to be able to go the extra mile for your customers. Never offer a solution that you can’t follow through on, as that will only set you back. Perhaps offering a small gift card or a discount on future purchases will be enough to assuage the situation. You might also consider replacing the item for free or upgrading their future purchase or membership.

When trying to find a solution, give your employees enough freedom to make judgment calls on their own. Passing an upset customer up a chain of command may only make the situation worse, so it’s important to avoid it when possible.

8. Follow Up

Contacting your angry customer after finding a solution for them might be the last thing you want to do, but after all that hard work, following up with your customer is the icing on the cake for them. It lets them know that their concerns are at the top of your mind and it’s another way to show that you care.

During this follow-up, apologize again and make sure you’ve taken care of everything they needed. At this point, if the customer is happy, there’s a really good chance that they will be returning to you for your services and that they will tell their friends and family about you and how good your customer service is. 

Common Customer Complaints (and How to Solve Them)

Customer complaints are usually rooted in legitimate problems. Even if you feel like you’ve done everything right the first time, you should always take every customer complaint seriously. Since we’ve gone over tips on how to handle customer complaints, let’s go ahead and take a look at the most common customer complaints and how to solve them.

Product is out of stock or on backorder

It’s frustrating when you’re patiently waiting for a product to arrive on the shelves, only to be disappointed over and over again when it never shows up in stock. Customers who are anxiously awaiting a specific product may be calling you or emailing you over and over again to find out when or if you’ll restock the item.

Even though you may not know when you will have the product available again, you can help satisfy your angry customer’s impatience by telling them that you will let them know when you get it in. Make sure you actually follow through with your promise, though. 

Lack of follow-through

Suppose you’ve promised your customer something and never get around to it. They call or email you and you never respond. Sometimes all it takes is one ignored message or email and you suddenly have an angry customer.

You can avoid this by staying on top of your emails and messages regularly, but no matter how on top of things you are, there’s always the chance that something or someone will slip through the cracks and be forgotten. We are all human after all.

If this happens to you, own up to your mistake and don’t lie about it. Apologize, then handle the issue right then and there. Try to avoid putting the problem off any longer. Then make sure to follow up with them a few days later after you’ve resolved the problem.

Customer service issues

It’s understandable for a customer to become frustrated when your customer service representatives don’t know the ins and outs of your products or services, if your employees act disinterested, or if your customers are straight-up ignored. If you carry a product or offer a service, both you and your employees are expected to be the experts. When customers have questions that can’t be answered or if they can’t find someone to answer their questions, you’ve got a problem.

Make sure your employees are well trained in your products and services, as well as in customer service itself. If the above does happen to you, you can assure your customer that customer service reps are receiving training and you can offer to send additional information to the customer about the product. Be sure to address these kinds of issues with the employee as well. 

Broken or defective product

It’s expected that a customer would complain if a product breaks or if the service does not produce the desired effect. If you’re not the manufacturer of the product, then this may not be your fault, but the customer might blame you for it anyway. Or, due to misunderstanding how to use the product, they simply have a lack of knowledge.

You can handle this by replacing or refunding for the dysfunctional product. Find out what it is the customer needs, then make sure they are able to accomplish that with the chosen item or service. Or educate the customer if there’s a lack of understanding of how the product or service works. 

Be proactive

With the many social channels and forums available on the internet, there are a lot of opportunities and platforms for customers to share feedback on. Even if they do not complain directly to you, you can still find reviews and complaints online that you can address. Sometimes, if left alone, these complaints can snowball and turn into a much bigger issue, so it’s important to be proactive and address these as quickly as possible.

Remember that it’s okay to stand up for yourself

People complain. We all do it, but if a situation gets out of hand and if the customer is belligerent or threatening you with bodily harm, then you have every right to have them removed from the premises or to discontinue conversation with them. The old adage “The customer is always right” is not 100 percent true in today’s customer service realm. You do not have to put up with being called names or being threatened. 

Handling customer complaints is not fun for most of us, but if done in a warm, professional manner, chances are both you and your customer will be satisfied with the outcome, and you’ll end up with a life-long customer.

Do you have any tips on handling customer complaints? Share in the comments below!

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