Your guide to successfully dealing with customer complaints

29 January 2020

While having happy customers 100% of the time might sound like business utopia, the reality is that complaints happen. Only a small group of customers (approximately 1 in 26 according to this study) actually go to the trouble of complaining. The rest? 

They simply move on to a competitor.

That’s why it’s important to take complaints seriously. The best brands understand that there’s a lot to learn from customers - especially the grumpy ones. Their complaints direct you towards the area where your business is falling short, making a great starting point for change. But if you don’t action those complaints quickly and effectively, you might be impacting your bottom-line. 

What’s the trick to dealing with complaints like a pro? We’ll show you.


Complaint management strategy 1: GO

Any customer that takes the time to complain is a valuable one. Recurring themes can indicate the need for change or improvements and can ultimately help drive your business forward. 

How do you address these? Just keep one simple acronym in mind - GO:

  • Golden opportunity: Look at customer complaints as a golden opportunity to address and resolve an issue before it escalates. Responding to and rectifying problems can turn unhappy customers into fans if handled correctly.

  • Opportunity to learn: What can your team learn from complaints? How can these be used to improve your business? As you take on customer feedback, it’s important to have processes in place to share with employees, measure it and track improvements.


Complaint management strategy 2: SOS 

While customer complaints can feel like a personal attack, taking a step back to look at things from a more objective point of view is important when finding a solution. Ultimately you want the customer to walk away so wowed by their experience that the complaint is long forgotten.

Here’s another acronym to help you deal with customer complaints:

  • Say sorry: Apologising is a powerful way to validate and empathise with the customer’s unique experience. If you’re responsible for a mistake, empathise with the customer, take ownership of what happened and say sorry. Even if you’re handling an issue that wasn’t necessarily your fault, jump in the customers’ shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from.

  • A genuine apology goes a long way. In fact, this study by the University of Nottingham found that when a customer hears the words “I’m sorry”, it triggers an immediate instinct to forgive. 

Pro tip - remember, sincerity is key!

  • Open the conversation: When you let your customer explain their side of the story, make sure you really take the time to understand their issue. You can briefly explain what went wrong from your perspective, but make sure you acknowledge the problem. This lets the customer know you understand their viewpoint. 

Pro tip - each complaint should be wholly taken care of by one team member. Ensure they have the authority and knowledge to deal with the issue at hand.

  • Solution seeking: After listening to the whole story, you should be able to suggest a number of ways to support the customer. Ensure your team understands what they can and can’t offer as compensation. There’s nothing worse than promising a resolution that can’t be delivered.

Once a solution is found (and all parties are happy with the outcome) document the issue and share this internally so that you can prevent this from happening again.

Pro tip - ask the customer what you can do to turn their experience around. This makes them feel involved in the process and shows them that they’re a valued customer.


Case closed? Not quite. 

About 56% of customers say they will share their personal information in exchange for better service. How can you do that? Follow up! Asking for feedback helps minimise future complaints and improves your customer experience!  

Even after a complaint has been successfully dealt with, something as small as a follow-up email reinforces that you value your customer. In the best-case scenario, it will result in them sticking around and telling their friends how great you have been. 

Pro tip - if possible, a small gesture such as a discount voucher or VIP access to a future sale can really sweeten their experience and lead to that all-powerful word of mouth recommendation.

Viewing complaints as constructive feedback to improve your business will have you approaching customer issues as an opportunity to learn instead of an annoyance. Making it easier for you to implement an effective strategy to handle complaints, address growth opportunities, and potentially turn your disgruntled customers into loyal fans. 

Find out how your business can grow with great customer experience. Request a demo today with Customer Radar.

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