6 Tips for handling customer complaints

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6 Step Guide to Handling Customer Complaints

Every business has to deal with dissatisfied customers at some point and in the post-COVID era of supply chain, staffing shortages and rising inflation issues, the number of frustrated customers appears to be on the rise.

So with the inevitable rise in frustrations, chances are you are going to need an easy process for handling customer complaints that will boost customer satisfaction and increase customer loyalty.

But even prior to COVID, customer complaints is not a new phenomenon.

Frustrated, angry and upset customers have been around since the dawn of mankind, and even the hundreds of years to practice, an angry customer still causes fear for both employees and businesses alike.

Of course, complaints can and do arise from a number of different situations and no business that I’ve come across is immune to things going wrong.

The best businesses have strategies in place for dealing with customer complaints and turn dissatisfied customers into not only satisfied customers but also advocates for their business.

“Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” – Tony Hsieh

And getting the customer experience right has never been more important with customer experience now the new battlefield to win and retain customers.

A recent survey of Australian consumers found when asked what they would do if they experienced poor customer service:

  • 58% would never use that company again
  • 58% would tell their friends and colleagues
  • 16% would post something online
  • 16% would use social media
  • Only 3% would do nothing

(Source: NewVoiceMedia)

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates.

The 6 step guide to handling customer complaints:

Learning how to handle customer complaints can often seem like a challenge, but there are some techniques you can use that will make it  lot easier for you. 

Following the five steps below will go a long way to calming down even the most challenging customers. 

1. Listen

The customer is concerned and they want to express it.

Let them explain their issue to you and listen so that you understand completely.

If you don’t understand the problem you cannot effectively solve it.

That doesn’t mean you have to stand there and take abuse though – follow these tips on how to handle angry customers that can help settle down even the angriest of customers.

2. Empathise

It sounds cliche, but genuinely put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Empathise with their situation and ask questions to gather any additional information you need to be able to offer a suitable solution.

Empathy statements can be perfect for this situation – some simple lines that anyone can use as long as they are said with genuine intent they can be incredibly powerful!

Check out some empathy statements used in customer service > 

3. Thank the customer for the opportunity

The customer could have walked away and spread their negative experience, instead they’re giving you the opportunity to turn them into a satisfied customer.

Genuinely thank them for that opportunity.

“A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend.” – Richard Branson

4. Solve the problem

Work with the customer to negotiate a solution to their issue.

By involving the customer in shaping the solution, they will be much more accepting of it.

5. Deliver on your promise

Once you and the customer have agreed upon a solution, make sure it is delivered and delivered in the shortest timeframe possible.

If you don’t deliver as promised, you will undo all the good work you have done thus far.

“If you don’t take care of your customer, your competitor will.” – Bob Hooey

6. Follow up

Set a mechanism to prompt a follow up with the customer within an appropriate timeframe to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the outcome and there is no lingering issue.


It would be nice if we could just avoid businesses making mistakes and for people to just be nice to each other but as much as I’d like that to be the case, I think both scenarios are probably not going to happen anytime soon.

So the best thing to do is make sure your team have professional training in how to manage complaints, and to ensure you have a customer complaints strategy that empowers your employees with the knowledge on how to deal with customer complaints when they occur.

Remember, the reward is worth it – higher customer loyalty, increased customer revenue and improved profits.

And remember, “Good customer experience is by design, not by chance” – Justin Tippett

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  1. Simon Blair 2 years ago

    Great article Justin. #1 & #2, listen & empathise are the key. When staff don’t have a method for complaint handling they often default to jumping into fix it mode, completely missing the customer’s emotional need which is to be heard and understood.

  2. Justin Tippett 2 years ago

    Thanks Simon, agree – super important component!

  3. Luke Jamieson 2 years ago

    I agree @Simon, the basics of being a good human!

  4. Mark Davies 7 months ago

    Really great tips on handling customer complaints. Thank you Justin.

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