How do you deal with customer complaints?

Dealing with customer complaints is something that happens in all businesses.

How you deal with them can have a big impact on your business – mishandled complaints often lead to poor customer feedback and lost business.  But if you handle customer complaints well, you can often turn a negative into a positive. Here’s a step by step process on how to deal with customer complaints.

The initial complaint

According to research from, when you first receive a complaint, the customer is likely to be angry, emotional or even just expecting some kind of argument to get what they want.  The idea here is to take a step back and make sure you aren’t emotional as well.

  1. Listen to the problem

Make sure you listen to the entire problem before you start commenting to allow them to get their viewpoint across.  Be certain to pay attention and don’t argue back.

  1. Don’t treat it as ‘just another complaint’

Even if you have heard the complaint countless times before, treat it as something different and unique because the person behind it is.

  1. Try to understand

Understanding can be tricky when you feel on the defensive so try to move away from this mindset by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes – how would you feel if this had happened to you?

  1. Try to avoid passing a customer around

Only ever pass them on to someone else if there’s no way you can help with the problem as being passed around only tends to make them angrier.

Finding a solution

Once you have laid out the basics of the complaint and know it is within your ability to handle, you next find a solution for them.

  1. Give an apology

Even if you don’t think your company is at fault, always apologise for the situation – this is often a big step in calming someone down.

  1. Don’t give excuses

While there might be a perfectly good reason why something has gone wrong, don’t offer excuses, only solutions.

  1. Use compensation where suitable

Sure, there are customers who come in to a complaint wanting to get some kind of compensation, but the majority of people just want you to deal with the problem.  Offering some kind of compensation can go a long way to repairing the relationship, especially if it is unexpected.

Other tips

When you have an angry customer, try not to get angry yourself even when they are rude, insulting or curse at you.  This just escalates things and makes the situation worse. Try to handle the complaint as quickly as possible, making them feel like they are a priority and that you care about their problem which will go a long way in calming them down.

Also keep a record of all complaints – what happened, what went wrong, what did you do to correct it, what was the customer’s reaction?  Not only does this help for future reference but might also even highlight a problem in the company’s processes that can be rectified to avoid a repeat in the future.