Customers are often frustrated by perceived insincere responses to their complaints. Customer complaints often come in the form of an angry email, a scathing online review, an awkward in-person encounter, a negative tweet, or an unexpected phone call.
Customer complaints result from you, your product, your staff, or your service falling short of expectations. As difficult and uncomfortable as they are, customer complaints are a part of doing business, and they must be dealt with properly. Responding to a complaint is never easy.
Be Thankful and Grateful that Your Customers Complain and Feedback
Not all unhappy customers complain, but when they do, you should take that as an opportunity to put things right and repair the relationship. Customer complaints are valuable pieces of feedback that can be used to improve our products and services.
Having a customer that brings their issue to your attention is a great gift. Surveys show that 96% of unhappy customers never complain to the company about their dissatisfaction with a product or service. That means most complaints are directed at family or friends, which can have a lasting impact on business through negative word of mouth. Increasing customer satisfaction is a fundamental goal for any organization, and how your support team addresses complaints can have a tremendous influence on customer retention.
Here are some important points that you need to take note of:
- Listen to or read the customer’s complaint.
When you have a customer complaint, the first thing that you should do is to listen to the issue and focus on what your customer is experiencing. Regardless of whether the complaint is over a price increase, a bad meal, or a service outage, your customer is reaching out to you to express frustration.
It’s easy to become defensive or to write off the complaint, but keep in mind the numbers — if one customer is coming to you with this complaint, 26 others are keeping quiet about the same one.
A customer’s complaint should always be treated as legitimate, as many others may be feeling the same way. So, give your full attention and empathy to the customer’s story.
- Thank the customer for their feedback.
We keep harkening back to this stat, but it is important — the majority of customers who have complaints with your business will not communicate them to you. That can leave you totally in the dark about how your customers really feel. Therefore, the first thing you should say when responding to a customer complaint is “thank you for letting me know.”
There is no law that customers must share feedback or leave a review. Some customers feel uncomfortable confronting businesses with negativity and would rather just ignore the issue or stop doing business with you altogether. The information that feedback contains can radically improve your customer experience, so even if the comments do not make you feel good in the moment, you should still thank customers for their insight.
- Present a solution, and verify that the problem is solved
After you have identified the root cause of the customer’s complaint, found a solution, and sent that solution to the customer, it’s important to verify that the solution you proposed actually solved the problem. There are a couple of ways to do this:
If you cannot verify that the solution is working, add this line to the end of your communication: “Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. I’m happy to help!”
Verify that the solution is working, then reply with: “I’ve tested this myself and it all appears to be working as expected, which you can see here: (include screenshot). But please let me know if you’re still running into issues.”
In some cases, it may even be worth reaching back out to the customer after a few days have passed to make sure that everything is resolved.
You may also want to consider monitoring any satisfaction ratings you receive on the conversation in your customer service software. Negative feedback may be a sign that there are still issues that need to be addressed (though there will be times that you’ve done everything you can do and the customer will still leave upset).
- Log the complaint so you can track trends
If you have gotten one complaint from one customer about one specific issue over the last 10 years, that issue might not be worth addressing. But if you are getting multiple messages from multiple customers who all shared the same complaint, that is the beginning of a narrative.
Whatever system you use, the key is to make it easy to capture meaningful complaints and track the volume of customers who are bringing up similar or identical issues.
- Check in to see if the customer is happy with the result
After some time has passed, you should follow up with customers to see if they are satisfied with the resolution.
The time frame is fuzzy for this one — some issues can be followed up with a few days or even weeks after they were resolved, while more time-sensitive ones warrant a follow-up within a day.
Use your gut here — it is better to over-communicate after a customer complaint than the other way around, as it shows you really do care about the problem and wish to make up for it.
Responding to customer complaints is never fun, but it is part of the job.
Taking the time to develop a strategy for responding to these complaints and handling each incident with the care shows your customers that they are valued. This makes them much less likely to do business with a competitor. By preparing ahead of time, maintaining appropriate positivity ratios, and framing feedback as temporary, specific, and external, you can arm yourself with ways to handle the negativity so you can address customer complaints efficiently and use them to create loyal customers.