5 Simple Steps for Handling Customer Complaints

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

As 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 commissioned for a major industry once showed 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, email or letter simmer. 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 become more upset

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. Follow up with a call or note to ensure the issue is resolved. A phone call is especially powerful because it provides that human touch. Here is where you shine: Few businesses take the extra step after resolving a problem.

In today’s digital world, it is very easy for an upset customer to vent to a large audience. 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



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