How to deal with a customer complaint effectively: my top 3 tips

June 1, 2021

Answering questions about your products and keeping customers happy can be tricky. But there are simple things you can do right from the start that will help you deal with a customer complaint more effectively. 

I have written before about getting great testimonials from satisfied customers. But things will not always go according to plan. For small businesses, having a dedicated team of staff to manage customer relationships is not an option. As a small business owner, it is likely that you are involved directly in managing customer relationships.

Your customers will do some of the most effective marketing for your business. It is important to manage your relationship with them effectively.

I have sifted through seven years of my own experience speaking to customers, to pick my top three tips that will help you maintain good customer relationships and deal with a complaint effectively.

Tip#1: Don’t leave customers wondering when they’ll hear back from you

If you look at a complaints policy, you will notice that a big part of dealing with a customer complaint is giving the customer an idea of how long the process will take. That is because communication is especially important when it comes to managing complaints.

You should always let your customer know when they can expect a response, so they are not left guessing when or if they will hear back from you. That is one of the best ways to deal with a customer complaint effectively.

Check out this Complaints Policy sample by NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations): Complaints Policy Sample Doc

This document lays out in simple terms what the customer can do if they wish to complain, and how many days it will take the business to respond. At the end of the document, it lets the customer know what to do if they are not happy with the resolution of the complaint.

This document is just a guide. If you have an e-commerce business, you will want to look at specific guidance for your sector. In any case, you should make sure that the customer understands how you will deal with their complaint and when they will be hearing back from you. Keeping customers informed will make it easier to deal with their complaint.

Tip #2: Never blame the customers for the issue

When something has gone wrong, the customer may be feeling a lot of very real, unpleasant emotions. They may feel disappointed or even cheated.

Taking the time to send a genuine apology can go a long way.

I am going to assume that bad customer service is not part of your overall business strategy – so make sure the customer knows that. Consider starting any response to a customer in this way:

  • Repeat the issue they have reported,
  • offer an honest apology,
  • and remind them that they are a valued customer.

Tip #3: Don’t start with what you can’t do for them

Hearing criticism puts many of us on the defensive. When you are responding to a customer, you must put all feelings aside and remember that you are not representing yourself. You are representing your business. It is tempting to jump into why you cannot do something for them, when the customer is angry or their requests seem unreasonable.

The key to dealing with a customer complaint effectively is understanding what they need and telling them how you can help them get there.

A frustrated customer is simply trying to get to the resolution they need as soon as they can. Instead of focusing on the steps to get there (for example, a refund that you cannot give) focus on giving them an acceptable alternative to get what they want (for example, sending them a different product that will fit their needs, or giving them a discount).

This graphic is a summary of the top tips in the blog.

That’s all folks!

I hope you found this short blog useful. The key to dealing with customer effectively is to develop your communication, negotiation, and customer service skills. I am by no means a customer service pro. But I have experience in building effective communication skills. And communication skills are essential for good customer service.

Build your communication, negotiation, and listening skills to become great at dealing with customer complaints. 

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