15 Ways to Handle and Overcome a Customer Complaint

15 Ways to Handle and Overcome a Customer Complaint

15 Ways to Handle and Overcome a Customer Complaint

Unhappy customers don't have to become a problem. From training your employees to handle customer complaints to leaving your feelings at the door, here are the 15 answers to the question, "Give your best tip for handling and overcoming a customer complaint?"

  • Train Your Employees to Handle Customer Complaints 
  •  Anticipate the Claims 
  •  Make the Customer Feel Seen 
  •  Address Complaints Head-On 
  •  Make It Right 100% of the Time 
  •  Stay Calm and Ask for Help if Needed 
  •  Have a Return Policy in Place 
  •  Listen Without Getting Offended 
  •  Respond Immediately 
  •  Be Proactive With Your Process 
  •  Personalize the Process of Complaint Resolution 
  •  Be Slow to Speak 
  •  Thank the Customer for Reporting the Issue 
  •  Take Ownership of the Problem 
  •  Leave Your Feelings at the Door

Train Your Employees to Handle Customer Complaints

Your employees are the face of your company, so it’s imperative that they know how to handle customer complaints in a way that is professional and satisfactory.  

 They should know how to de-escalate a situation, how to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties, and how to apologize effectively. It’s important to have a system in place for employees to report customer complaints so that you can track them and monitor progress.  

 If any employee cannot handle customer complaints, then they should be able to pass it to a supervisor or a higher authority. 

 Demi Yilmaz, Co-Founder, Colonist.io 

 Your people can resolve customer complaints successfully when they have strategies in place to handle every eventuality. Don't allow a lack of training to negatively affect your customer base.

Anticipate the Claims

Better than getting a call from an angry customer is preparing for a complaint. In this way, you avoid tension in the relationship with the client. 

 To do this, you can carry out active post-sales work, which is not limited to receiving customer contacts but also going after them to improve their experience after the purchase. 

 This attitude can be materialized in satisfaction surveys to understand how the experience was. Perhaps the client does not speak on his own initiative, but the survey can encourage him to show points for improvement. 

 Ilija Sekulov, Marketing & SEO, Mailbutler 

 The best way to anticipate how your customers will react is to analyze customer complaints from the past and look for patterns. See how people reacted to your actions in the past and then use that to predict what they'll do in the future.


Make the Customer Feel Seen

The best way to handle a customer complaint is to make sure that the customer feels seen and validated. It is a natural human desire to feel validated, especially when dealing with an unhappy customer, all they want is to feel like their point is being understood.  

 Often, even if a mutually beneficial situation is not possible, just ensuring that the customer's concerns are noted will help relieve some of their ill feelings about the situation and your brand. 

 Gregg Dean, Co-Founder & CEO, Layla Sleep 

 Not only does this strategy effectively deal with customer complaints, it also sets them on the path to become loyal customers. That's because when you make your customer feel like they're truly important to you, they'll begin to view your company the same way.

Address Complaints Head-On

Don't skirt around the issue—take ownership of the problem and make it right. For example, let's say a customer receives a package that became damaged during the shipping process.  Even though shipping isn't something in your direct control, the right thing to do is apologize because it is frustrating and provide them with a free exchange if necessary. 

 Cesar Cruz, Co-Founder, Sebastian Cruz Couture

Make It Right 100% of the Time

No business is perfect, so there may come a time when you receive a customer complaint. If the complaint is legitimate, make it right.  

 This is a key part of reputation management for any brand. Making it right with a scorned customer could include giving a full refund or offering them free products or services.  When customers feel you have made a genuine effort to right a wrong, they are much more likely to extend grace. The last thing you want is for them to trash your business online for the entire world to see. 

 Michael Green, Co-Founder, Winona 

 One of the biggest sins of the customer service industry is a dropped customer, when you don't properly follow up and problems are left unresolved. If you make it right 100% of the time, your customers will trust that you'll handle any problem they might have in the future.

A woman staying calm at her computer.

Stay Calm and Ask for Help if Needed

One of the best tips for handling and overcoming a customer complaint is to stay calm at all times and ask for help from a manager or co-worker if needed.  

 One of the worst outcomes from a customer complaint, whether it be in-person, on the phone, or via email, is for the employee who is handling that complaint to have a negative reaction to the scenario. Some employees may even freeze or not know what to do when faced with some very hostile customer complaints.  

 For all employees in the service and retail industry, it's extremely important to stay as calm as possible during a customer complaint, hear the customer out, and then act appropriately based on the complaint no matter what the customer says. If the conversation gets too heated, then you can always call a nearby co-worker or manager to help find a solution for the complaint. 

 David Ring, Sr. Marketing Manager, MCT - Trading

Have a Return Policy in Place

Customers complain when they are unsatisfied with the product they have purchased or they might have simply changed their mind. To prevent escalations, have a return policy in place that is fair to both the customer and your business.  

 Make sure that customers are aware of what goods they should return and in what condition. If you are in the service industry, then you can have a warranty period for your services so that customers can request a refund or redo the service if they aren't satisfied.  

 If customers return goods that are still under warranty, you can either repair them or offer a replacement. By having a clear return policy, you minimize the chances of customers escalating their complaints to a full-blown dispute. 

 Todd Saunders, General Manager, BIG Safety

A group of women listening to the customer.

Listen Without Getting Offended

You must be able to listen to a customer's complaint on the phone or in person without becoming offended. Although they occasionally seem offensive or cruel, the likelihood is that they are not intentionally doing either.  Because of my personal experience, I know that when a customer criticizes my business; I feel as though they are attacking me. However, being defensive is the last thing you should do because it is so simple to unintentionally insult someone through your voice tone, body language, or facial expressions. 

 How you respond to what a dissatisfied customer says will determine how you handle the situation. No matter how offended you may feel, don't cut somebody off when they are speaking.  People will frequently come to you just to vent their frustrations. After they have finished venting, you can start looking for a solution to their issue. Show them you understand their situation and that you genuinely care about them. 

 Kurt Uhlir, Chief Marketing Officer, Kurt Uhlir

Respond Immediately

Time is of the essence with customer complaints. With the ability for customers to air complaints across a variety of social media channels, the quicker it is addressed, the better.  

 Begin with acknowledging the customer's complaint and offer an apology. For example, "Susan, I am so sorry you are having trouble with xxx." Many customers just want to feel heard. Then follow up on how to correct the situation. This may include providing specific instructions on how to appropriately use the product or offering to send a replacement product. 

 Regardless of how you resolve the situation, by addressing it immediately, other customers will see you have cared enough to respond and correct the issue. This will give them confidence that if they too have a problem, you will be there to assist. 

 Caroline Duggan, Chief Brand Officer, Lumineux 

 It's often helpful to track customer complaints to ensure that no one is missed and everyone is contacted in a timely manner. Common customer complaints can be easy to handle when you don't let them fester.


Be Proactive With Your Process

While larger companies may prefer longer and more comprehensive processes for customer complaints, there’s nothing a customer dislikes more than following up for a resolution. So companies must remain proactive in their responses to customer complaints.  

 Try to provide a first-level response and solution while you try to resolve the issue completely and don’t forget to keep updating your customer on the progress. If you can keep this in mind, you’re more likely to leave a customer feeling satisfied with your approach. 

 Asma Hafejee, Sr. Marketing Executive, CMR Surgical 

 Customer satisfaction doesn't happen by accident. It takes a proactive process to ensure that customer dissatisfaction doesn't grow into a truly upset customer.

Personalize the Process of Complaint Resolution

Personalizing the process of complaint resolution is the best possible way of handling a customer complaint and ensuring the customers that our service is always available to make them feel comfortable and gain a happy and loyal customer for life.  

 This can be done by establishing a simple process, which includes listening to the customer's complaint calmly and acknowledging their issue, even if it seems trivial to you.  It is also important to create a personal rapport with the complainant through a call over the phone to help them realize their opinion is important to your business and that you really intend to help them out rather than giving them standardized responses by software. 

 It is also crucial for a customer service representative to ask the right questions under the complaint and document their responses to help create a faster service for upcoming complaints. At last, apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for bringing the matter to your attention. 

 Alan Carr, Director, Webpop Design 

 Remember that the most common customer complaints will pop up frequently, so keep things personalized but understand where the commonalities lie.

Be Slow to Speak

Be quick to listen and slow to speak. When handling customer complaints, it’s best to take a breath and listen to what they have to say. Most people just want to be heard.  

 You can usually diffuse a situation by remaining calm and allowing the disgruntled customer to vent. Once they’re done, provide them with a couple of different solutions if possible.  Let them choose how best to resolve their issue. This shows that you heard what they had to say and you’re willing to make it right. 

 Kim Walls, CEO & Co-Founder, Furtuna Skin 

 The same customer that started out screaming at your representative can become calm and relaxed when they know you're listening to them.

A lovely thank you gift and handwritten note.

Thank the Customer for Reporting the Issue

When a customer complains, it's important to stay calm and listen to what they have to say. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and let them know that you're sorry that they had a negative experience. Then, do your best to resolve the issue quickly and acceptably. 

 If you can't fix the problem, offer to refund the customer's money or give them a free product or service. Finally, apologize again and thank the customer for their feedback. By following these steps, you can handle customer complaints effectively and ensure that your customers are happy with your business. 

 Benjamin Okyere, Founder & CTO, Stress Reliever 

 The customer reported the issue because they expect relief. Thank them for doing you a service, and then get to work!

Take Ownership of the Problem

When a customer complains, the first thing you should do is take ownership of the problem. Apologize for the inconvenience and assure the customer that you will do everything you can to make it right. 

 Often, systemic problems within a company lead to customer complaints. Try to determine the root cause of the issue. Once you know what's causing the issue, you can put a plan in place to fix it. 

 If you can't solve the problem yourself, ask for help from your supervisor or another team member. And be sure to follow up with the customer after the complaint has been resolved to ensure they're satisfied with the outcome. 

 Follow up with the customer to ensure they're satisfied with the resolution. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and tell them you value their business. 

 Jamie Irwin, Director, Straight Up Search

Leave Your Feelings at the Door

I believe the best way to deal with any consumer having a complaint is to keep your emotions in check, regardless of whether they are a pleasant lady trying to advise you how to do your job better or an angry customer ready to explode in wrath.  

 Don't let your own feelings impede listening to what they have to say; instead, be cool as you respond and interact with them. 

 Timothy Allen, Sr. Corporate Investigator, Corporate Investigation Consulting