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How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively

It’s something you definitely didn’t want: there are customers who are somewhat unhappy about doing business with you. And that might be putting it mildly! To be fair, no business will please everyone all of the time. Most of your customers are happy campers. The ones who complain are probably the exceptions. All the same, you ignore them at your peril.

Here’s the sunny side behind that looming customer complaint: every criticism represents an opportunity. Many customers don’t like to air complaints. The ones who speak up are offering you feedback that you’d be willing to pay for, and they’re doing it for free. 

Every customer that complains is a Very Important Person. It might be a very angry VIP, but it’s someone who may be able to show you how to improve your business processes. As such, one complaint is worth a thousand affirmations. 

But, before you can reflect on lessons learned, you need to find out precisely what’s upsetting customers and how you can make things right. It can be a delicate process, but it’s worth doing it well. Here’s why. 

Benefits of Knowing How to Handle Customer Complaints

Gain Brand Advocates and a Competitive Edge

Whether it’s a niggle or a shocker, handling customer complaints well can turn your harshest detractors into your most ardent supporters. 

Complaints come from unmet expectations. If you care about meeting customer expectations, you may be ahead of the curve and that could give you the edge in a competitive business landscape. If one or more of your customers speaks up, you’re probably looking at a sample representing a much larger number of customers who didn’t complain but aren’t happy. 

In a world in which customers have become accustomed to doing business without interpersonal contact, being recognised as an individual and experiencing constructive interaction makes a refreshing change. Play your cards right, and you could have a brand advocate who will not only continue supporting your business, but recommend you to their friends and associates. 

Protect Your Business’s Reputation

Happy customers are seldom so thrilled that they’ll hit the internet to shout it from the rooftops. The converse is true when customers are unhappy. Expect them to hit TrustPilot, Google, social media, and every review site they can think of. If you can’t make them feel better about a bad experience, and turn it into a good one, venting their frustration will offer some relief – at the expense of your business’s reputation.

Spot Necessary Tweaks and Changes

When customers complain, you have a golden opportunity to see how your business looks from an outside perspective. Always thank customers who complain for bringing their concerns to your attention. If you know how to handle customer complaints effectively, you could get valuable clues that will help you to improve the service all your customers receive

Perhaps it’s just a matter of tweaking your website. Or, your product development team might discover tips on what customers really want from your products. Might it be time to rethink your target market and how you serve it? Your customers have the final word.

How to Handle Unhappy Customers

By the time customers begin to complain, you can be sure that they’re thoroughly frustrated. And, let’s be honest, dealing with angry or frustrated people is never a walk in the park. Remain focussed on the process and follow these steps.

Listen Carefully

Your complaining customer could be having a bad day topped off with an unpleasant customer experience, and they might not express their concerns succinctly or calmly. This could mean that you receive a torrent of words only some of which are relevant to what happened. 

All the same, you should listen carefully and take notes whenever you spot a nugget of information. Your first aim is to find out exactly what the problem is. Your second goal is to find out what they’d like you to do about it. The final step is to discover whether you can accommodate them or reach a compromise. 

You might not be able to do all these things in one call or exchange of emails, but good customer service outcomes have one thing in common: they begin with listening.

Empathise and Apologise

Try to see your customer’s point of view. And yes, you can apologise without losing face. Whether your customer has missed something important – or your business has – their feelings are valid. There’s no harm in acknowledging that. By doing so, you’re showing that you’re open to their perspective and will take it on board. 

Just saying “We’re sorry you should feel that way,” or “We understand this is frustrating for you,” doesn’t equate to saying that your company is in the wrong, but it does show empathy and a willingness to comprehend the obstacles your customer is experiencing. 


Once you’ve listened to a complaint, you may need to ask a few questions to fully recognise the problem your customer is facing. When you think you’ve grasped it, try reflecting it back to them to see if you understood it correctly. Get a complete picture of the situation so that you can address it properly.

Get Authority From Internal Sources 

Once you know what a complaint is about and have all the necessary background information, you may find that existing company policies can guide your responses. But, if you aren’t sure about what you can do, or need to get more information on the customer’s current position, you may need to check in with other departments. If this necessitates a delay, tell your customer about what you’re doing, and let them know when they can expect an outcome.

Record the Interaction and Set Follow-Up Dates

Be sure to keep records and set follow-up reminders. For example, if you offer to discuss a customer’s problem with technical, billing, or fulfilment departments, you should input this into a workflow that alerts them to your query and reminds you to follow-up as promised. Once you think you’ve resolved the issue, it’s good manners to check in later to ensure that things are now going as smoothly as you hope.

How Call Centres Handle Customer Complaints

Your call centre can be a customer’s worst enemy – or their best friend. In a worst case scenario, call centres are not empowered to do anything but take that call. Sometimes, they’re afraid to tell the businesses they serve that all is not well. And some businesses may be happy not to be “bothered” with customer complaints, so that suits them too. If these are your competitors, you can gain a strong advantage over them by paying attention to customer concerns. 

At RSVP, we know that promoting your customers’ welfare and taking care of your business’s future are synonymous. We work as part of your team. We gather and record data about customers’ compliments and complaints; and this helps to guide customer-centric decision-making

Our London-based call centre is ready to serve your customers just as well as you would if you were answering the phone yourself – and better. In fact, in-house equivalence is only our first, and most achievable, goal. Once we’ve matched your baseline service level, we work to exceed it. Your customers get the complaints-handling service they need to enjoy the best your business has to offer. And, although we might be doing the talking and listening on your behalf, you’re hearing customer voices through our reporting and analytics.

Contact us today to find out more about our customer service outsourcing and discover just how good customer service can get!


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