Customer complaints don’t need to be all that bad. Whilst negative reviews or hearing someone complain about the services/products you offer can send you into a panic, it’s better to hear what went wrong than have your customers shop elsewhere. When properly handled, customer complaints challenge the way we do business – for the better. And as bad as it sounds, it’s these complaints that are actually really good for business.

No matter how streamlined your business is, customer complaints are inevitable. Unhappy buyers can shatter a perfectly good day, steer prospective clients away from business and leave you feeling frustrated and doomed. But all hope is not lost!

These days, customer satisfaction simply isn’t enough. People crave their loyalty to be earnt. Research shows that up to 80% of customers who leave were, in fact, “satisfied” with the original company. Most people don’t bother to complain – they’ll just go to your competitors instead. So, when someone does criticise, use it to your advantage and show them how much their business really means. Providing complaints are resolved in favour of the buyer, 70% of customers will continue doing business with you. So, it pays to get it right! Here are the best ways to handle complaints and use them to grow your business:

Why do Customers Complain?

Complaints offer the greatest source of learning. To understand how to manage them though, it’s handy to know why buyers complain in the first case. These are a few of the most common reasons.

  • Not listening to customers.
  • Low-quality products/services, or products/services that don’t measure up to how they’re described.
  • Poor customer service or rude staff.
  • Hidden information and costs.
  • Inaccessibility.
  • Keeping issues unresolved.

Listen Intently, Thank Them and Apologise

The first step to identifying the problem is listening – really listening – to what the customer is saying. People want to feel heard, so let them explain their story before jumping to conclusions or trying to fix the problem. Customer complaints aren’t an attack on you personally, so use this opportunity to find out why they’re upset and what outcome they’re expecting.

Next, thank them! It’s a good sign the customer has brought the issue to your attention. Problems cannot be solved if you’re not aware of them. Most importantly, this is not a time for excuses, reasons and justifications. Instead, apologise sincerely as this is key to recognising how the issue has affected them. Avoid blaming someone else for the problem or palming the client off to a secondary person. Instead, accept responsibility and show you’re willing to work with them to make it better.

Understand the Customer’s Perspective

Make sure you put yourself in the customer’s shoes. The goal of a business owner is to find the best possible solution to solve the problem – not argue it. The old saying, ‘the customer is always right’ can go a long way. You may not agree with the complaint, but understanding the customer’s perspective and taking effective action is still required.

Regardless of how you feel about the complaint, keep in mind that an emotional response will only aggravate the situation. Consider how you would feel if you were in their position, and ask the right questions before taking action to show you’re taking their complaint seriously.

Customers generally complain because they feel they’ve been treated unfairly or had a lack of response. No one wants to be ignored – especially when they’ve paid for a service or product. By understanding why they’re upset, you’re already on your way to solving the complaint efficiently.

Offer Solutions over Excuses

Excuses don’t solve problems – solutions do. After you’ve listened to the complaint and understand what your customer is saying, work with them to find the best solution. Ask them what would be an acceptable result in their eyes. By partnering with them, you’re in a better position to solve the problem quickly and avoid adding to the customer’s frustration.

Take Quick, Efficient Action

Once you and the customer have reached a viable solution, taking quick and efficient action is paramount. Don’t tell them what they want to hear and make empty promises. Show them their complaint matters to you and be ready to act on it immediately.

Even if you’ve come across this complaint before, every buyer protest must be treated individually. Record complaints to track progress and outcomes, and specify what action was taken to solve the issue. This will help to prevent it happening again. Even with an effective solution, it can be worthwhile giving something back to the client – especially if they’re a long-term buyer. A discount on their next purchase or a free session or product can help sweeten the deal too.

Follow Up

Is the customer completely satisfied with the end result? Solutions are easy to negotiate but taking the necessary steps to finalise everything can be easily pushed to the side. Follow up a week later with a phone call to ensure they’re happy. They will appreciate the proactive behaviour too. It’ll also give you the opportunity to repeat the process should they not be satisfied with the outcome.

Invest in Customer Complaint Training

Knowing how to handle customer complaints is key to successful businesses. Businesses can benefit from staff training so everyone has the right skills for these situations. It’s also a smart move to implement a complaints policy.  This code of conduct will set clear guidelines for handling complaints, encouraging a quicker and more efficient process for staff.

Customer complaints can be challenging to handle, but there is a silver lining. A customer who complains is one that usually want to continue doing business with you. They’re just offering the clues for you to make a positive change in your business, which will ultimately benefit other clientele too.