5 steps to handling customer complaints

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Nobody likes to deal with complaints. Indeed, most of us dread the task. We delay. Make excuses. Get a cup of coffee. Then another.

Puzzled little girl princessAs difficult as it is, try to view complaints in a positive manner. They allow you to address an issue that perhaps you didn’t know existed.

“Silent sufferers” just go away, whereas irate customers are looking for help, and probably want to stay with you.

A survey taken in a major industry many years ago established that customers whose problems with a product were resolved quickly demonstrated greater customer satisfaction and loyalty than those who had no problems at all.

These five steps can help you keep a customer coming back.

1. Deal with it, and quickly. Don’t let the phone message or letter simmer on your desk. The first step is to send out an initial reply. Let the customer know you’ve received the complaint and are reviewing it. By all means, respond in some fashion. Ignoring it will only cause the customer to flee.

2. Offer genuine regret in your response.
I am truly sorry to hear that one of your processors arrived broken and inoperable.

3. Briefly recap the situation to show that you were paying attention and understand the issue. Avoid a flippant or condescending tone. Remember that your customer views this as a serious matter. Even if the person is flat out wrong, treat the complaint and customer with respect.

4. Offer a solution. Perhaps you can provide what the customer seeks. When you cannot, offer a viable alternative and explain why your approach is at least as good. Avoid blaming it on policies even if it’s true. Emphasize what you can do, not what you can’t.

We have extended your warranty for another year at no charge.
You may enjoy an additional six months of membership at no additional charge.

The solution need not be extravagant. Many times a simple one will suffice.

5. Provide a token to help soothe the sore feelings. A gift certificate to a theater or restaurant, even tickets to a sporting event. Here is where you shine: Few businesses take the extra step after resolving a problem.

Remember that a happy customer speaks to no one, but an irate customer tells ten of his friends. With proper care, you can turn a difficult and delicate situation into a positive one for you and your customer.


Does your office occasionally receive wrong-number calls? How do you handle them? Learn how I responded one day by reading, “Turn a wrong-number call into a sales call.”

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Tom Fuszard, content writer, blog writing, pr writing, web copy



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About Tom Fuszard

Marketing communications professional who is also a member of a fantastic travel club. Looking to escape and save hundreds on your accommodations each time? Contact me for more details.

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