In this Post

Learn why, with examples, a complaint is one of the best things that can happen to your business, and what to do when you receive one.

“Who wants to deal with customer complaints? They just bring you down and often you get no credit for dealing with them.”

You might have heard this kind of thing from friends and colleagues. Don’t fall for it – dealing with customer complaints is an opportunity to interact with customers and leave them and yourself with newfound positivity.

Customer complaints open the doors of direct communication - a golden opportunity for you to completely change the customer’s mind and turn them into a promoter for your business.

And the old adage is true - ‘It costs six times more time, energy and money to acquire a new customer than keep an old one.’

What’s your attitude?

an angry lion
Image: Rodrigo Suriani

Before you enter into communications with a customer who’s made a complaint, take a moment to assess your attitude as this will have a large effect on your tone, which will be picked up on by the customer.

Remember that this is an opportunity, not a chore. Keep those mind-blockades at bay and try not to take up a defensive position.

The customer will be delighted by an open attitude, and your willingness to do what it takes to resolve the issue. This will help build a new bond of trust.

One way to approach creating the best attitude for dealing with customer complaints is to imagine yourself in their position. How would it have made you feel to experience their problem? What would you have done in their place?

Working without tone of voice

Unlike dealing with customer complaints face-to-face in say, a retail environment, customer service online relies on your attitude and words without the benefit of body language or voice intonation.

With the power of words alone, you’ve got to replace your demeanour, facial expressions, and posture that you’d normally display physically.

Let them know that you have fully understood their problem and the situation they have been put in. This display of empathy is a great way to defuse a volatile reaction.

As you’re deprived of your voice - think through what you write. Writing in short, snappy phrases or abbreviated ‘text speech’ will annoy the customer, as to them it will look like you lack interest or time to deal with them properly.

Make it your responsibility

Customers keep our businesses running, provide a paycheck at the end of the month and give you something to do during the day. They are our most valuable asset, so when they have a problem - take ownership of that problem and set it as your personal responsibility to make sure it’s resolved.

Always keep yourself in the customer’s shoes when dealing with their complaint. Empathy and positivity will take you a long way towards ensuring customers see that you’re taking them seriously.

Offer your customers an opportunity to fully explain their problem to help you get a firm idea of the cause and the solution. If you’re missing any information which could help you - politely ask.

Finding a solution

So - you’ve taken the time to speak directly with the customer as soon as possible, taken on board what they’ve said, apologised to them for the inconvenience and now you’re set on finding a solution.

If you can fix it straight away - great! If not, then manage the customer’s expectations. Don’t leave them hanging – explain to them in straightforward terms what steps you will take to get to a solution. Remember to give them a realistic expectation for when you’ll get back to them.

Go the extra mile for your customers

Going the extra mile for a customer who has complained is one of the best ways to convert them to a staunch promoter of your company.

One example we like to give is of a manager of a local restaurant who received a complaint from a customer whose car was clamped in a nearby car park whilst they were eating at the restaurant.

Despite the fact it wasn’t the fault of the manager or restaurant, he offered to pay the fees to have the clamp removed.

This willingness to resolve the complaint meant he’d won over the customer for life, for a the low ‘marketing spend’ of paying the customer’s ticket!

No need to spend big

There’s no need to spend to replicate the effect of this successful example. There are any number of gestures you can make in dealing with customer complaints for little or no money which will have the same effect.

Here’s testimony to that very point. JetBlue has become one of the world’s most trusted airlines for customer service thanks to their company-wide dedication to dealing with customer complaints.

Jetblue customer service

All it takes for Justine’s opinion to change from clear frustration to ‘love’ for JetBlue was to be listened to and dealt with efficiently.

This is a universal attitude we can all adopt. Demonstrating empathy and determination to find an agreeable solution as fast as possible will go a long way in your customer’s eyes.

Most importantly, keep in mind the simple fact that your customers want you to listen, understand and do as much as you can to find a solution.

We don’t often get a chance to speak directly with our customers, but when that golden opportunity of a wide-open door is presented to us - we must take full advantage.

So, the next time a colleague says “Who wants to deal with customer complaints?”

  • jump in and shout “I do! And I’m going to do such a great job that they will become one of our most loyal customers.”

What to Do Next

If you enjoyed this article, take 10 minutes to read through our all-encompassing guide for how to handle customer complaints

  • you won’t regret it!

Once you’ve done that, we want you to do one thing:

Turn one of your customer complaints into a compliment. Today.

If no customer complaints come in today, make sure to keep this post close at hand ready for the next time a complaint comes in.

We work with clients who reap the rewards of this every day - and you can too.

We have years of experience working with mid-market firms who understand the benefits of customer feedback and Voice of the Customer. If you feel you might benefit from having an experienced partner, happy to jump on a call at any time, to help you put a world-class VoC programme in place, you should learn more about us.

Doug Ackerman

Doug loves to help ecommerce firms put VoC programmes in place.

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