A Step-by-Step Guide to Resolving Customer Complaints

Maybe it was something you did. Maybe it was something you didn’t do. Or maybe, you’re simply dealing with a very grumpy customer. No matter the cause, dealing with customer complaints is never fun. If you’re lucky, they came directly to you with their issues. If you’re unlucky, you might be getting blasted on social media. Regardless of how it plays out, it’s important to know what comes next and how you’re going to remedy the situation.

Identifying the issue

Nowadays, many customers place a great amount of emphasis on the experience, sometimes more so than the product or service you’re providing. This means you’re under more scrutiny than ever before. Though it may not seem like it in the heat of the moment, this does come with one very specific benefit: instead of poring over data trying to find where you went wrong, more often than not, the unhappy customer will tell you exactly what their issue is. Whether this is an online complaint or an in-person one will have some impact on how you go about handling it. An online complaint usually involves more consequence, whereas speaking in person allows the parties to resolve the issue at the time of the complaint.

On top of this, the majority of customer complaints tend to be fairly specific. Maybe a salesperson wasn’t as attentive as they could’ve been. Perhaps the customer was on hold for too long and lost their patience. Or, you might’ve neglected to reach out to an individual that filled out an inquiry form on your website. However, some individuals tend to be a bit more nebulous and vague with their complaints.

Often, the best way to identify the specifics of their issue is by engaging with them directly and asking probing questions. Lastly, there is a small subset of customers who won’t be happy no matter what and are looking exclusively for a forum on which to complain. Offer your sincerest apologies but don’t be too surprised if there’s no concrete resolution.

Resolution steps

Naturally, there are several ways in which you can go about resolving customer complaints. The majority of businesses rely on a similar system of incentives. Whether these are discount coupons, offers, or exclusive promotions is up to you. A majority of the time, if a customer feels as though they’ve gotten something out of their complaint, that will be enough. However, you may need to offer more personalized attention to some.

On top of this, if you’re seeing negative reviews online, you can directly respond and show that you’re willing to engage and take responsibility for your mistakes (sometimes even when you haven’t made a mistake at all). With any luck, the customers will return to their reviews and make edits based on how you handled their issue. Avoid soliciting reviews, however, as many sites, including Google, penalize this by removing online business listings.

Complaint prevention

Naturally, one of the best ways to deal with customer complaints is by preventing them from happening in the first place. This could mean several things, from upping the ante in your customer service department or investing in contact center software to make sure your customers have a direct line to you. Companies like Bright Pattern have crafted cloud-based contact applications that make it easier for even smaller companies to address larger volumes of inbound customer inquiries. They also make it less likely that you’ll neglect callbacks, reduce the amount of phone tag, and increase your response rates. It’s a great step towards keeping customers happy from the get-go.

As a business owner, customer complaints are part of the territory. Even if you feel like you’re doing everything right, you’re still bound to run up against the occasional frictional customer. As long as you have a resolution plan in place, you’re keeping yourself one step ahead of a negative reputation and are doing your best to put customer service first.