Dealing with complaints

by Admin
Updated: July 20, 2020

Dealing with complaints is your opportunity to show how good your customer service is

Dealing with customer complaints is something most people dread, even if the customer themselves does not initially have a bad attitude. Unfortunately, dealing with customers from a base of extreme negativity seldom produces a satisfactory outcome.

A single vengeful customer can bring down an entire organization so it’s absolutely vital to make sure any customer who has a complaint ends up happy and not someone who hates you!

The key is to turn it into a positive experience from the outset.

Excuses don’t matter

It is good to strive for zero failures and zero complaints.

Despite the best of intentions every business will eventually experience some failures that lead to customer complaints.

Some complaints are not your fault, or anyone’s fault.

The thing to remember is: No-one cares about your excuses.

Rule #1 - Respond quickly & nicely

It is essential to respond as quickly as possible.

If you have an unhappy customer, ignoring them will definitely make things worse. No-one likes to feel ignored and, having made the decision to complain, it may feel like the most important thing going on in their life at the time.

A quick response prevents a build-up of anger.

Rule #2 - Be nice

Be careful to not anticipate a fight, no matter how bad the situation might at first appear.

The most aggressive people I’ve ever had to deal with were aggressive because:

  1. They thought they would only get results by being angry.
  2. They didn’t actually expect to get a good response.

Being nice improves the tone of any interaction immediately.

Rule #3 - Put yourself in the customer’s position

Someone who is complaining is in pain - pain from whatever went wrong PLUS the pain of having to complain. The least you can do is make the process of complaining as comfortable as possible.

Rule #4 - Listen

When someone has a complaint they need to be heard.

Being heard accomplishes two key things:

  1. It provides the customer with the important emotional step of feeling justified in making the complaint.
  2. It provides you with clues (if not the whole story) about exactly what they want fixed and how they want it to be fixed.

Listening effectively will save you from providing a solution that turns out to be inadequate.

Rule #5 - Be professional and systematic

Promising to try to find a solution is all well and good but anyone can say that. The key here is to inspire confidence by setting out an action plan and confirming it in writing: An action plan can be as simple as, “I will investigate and get back to you by end of day”

Never don’t follow-up - even if you think you’ll have important news by waiting a few more minutes, always check-in in time.

Take responsibility - stay on the case and do a final follow-up after everything has been resolved. Show that you care.

When people discover that you handle complaints in such a positive way they’ll have great confidence doing business with you in the future and in recommending you to others.

Other considerations

Generally, I would advise against apologizing too quickly. This is not about admitting fault. An apology establishes that you and the customer are on opposite sides and does nothing to ease the pain the customer is experiencing.

  • A response more along the lines of “Oh, that shouldn’t have happened” puts you on same side with the customer.
  • Apologizing always seems to be better after the problem has been solved.

All customer feedback is valuable, including complaints. Thanking the customer for taking the time to contact you is another great way of establishing rapport.

Try to make sure it’s so easy for your customers to contact you directly & privately with any complaints that they will do this before resorting to social media!

More info

“Ten Tips for Dealing with Customer Complaints ” at

Fewer than half of unhappy customers will bring a complaint to your attention. Those who never say anything will tell an average of 11 other people about their bad experience. It is important that we recognize complaints as opportunities...” -

“10 Reasons Why Customer Complaints Are Good News” at

Internal links

Customer service The improbable salesperson Getting paid All articles
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Answers?
Please post a comment...
Log in