How to Handle Customer Complaints

So You’ve Got a Customer Complaint—Now What?

It happened: your first customer complaint. Maybe it was posted on Yelp or Facebook, where the whole world can see it. Or perhaps it was sent directly to your inbox. Either way, you’ll have to address it, and do so promptly and graciously. Here’s what you need to know about doing it well:

#1. Don’t take it personally

First, breathe. You’re now in the same club as every business in the world. Despite your passion for excellence, there are bound to be times when customers feel you could have done better. Know that this happens to almost everyone and that complaints can actually be great opportunities to build goodwill—but only if you handle them well. 

#2. See the gift in the complaint

Most unhappy customers won’t bother to complain—they’ll simply and quietly take their business elsewhere. A customer who takes the time to share their feedback, even if it is negative, is giving you the opportunity to respond and make things right. You can choose to see that as a gift. First, it gives you the chance to repair the relationship rather than losing the customer altogether. Second, it provides valuable feedback that can ultimately help your business improve.

#3. Respond promptly—but not impulsively

Address negative feedback swiftly, but don’t jump to your own defense as quickly as possible. Give yourself time to cool off and compose a professional and polite response. Yelp is a treasure trove of hot-tempered responses from business owners looking to avenge negative reviews, and while these are amusing to read, they never make the business look good. Don’t join them.

#4. Stay curious, not defensive

Most people who take the time to complain feel that they have a legitimate reason for doing so. Instead of feeling defensive when you read it, try to approach it with a sense of curiosity. Ask yourself: could this customer have a good point? Could I have missed something important, or could I improve something I didn’t realize needed improving? How can I ensure others don’t encounter the same problem?

#5. Make the other person feel valued and heard

Remember that it takes effort to complain. Most of the time, people aren’t doing it to be nasty—they’re doing it because they feel that something has gone wrong and needs to be addressed. They want to be heard and valued for what they have to say. And some may genuinely be trying to help your business by pointing out an opportunity for growth. When you remember this, you can respond respectfully and show the other person that you’ve heard them and value their voice.

#6. Take responsibility and move on

A complaint isn’t an invitation to an argument, nor about deciding who’s right or wrong. If a customer had a negative experience, it’s not your job to convince them it wasn’t as bad as they say it was or that it didn’t happen the way they said it did. Unfortunately, too many business owners respond exactly in this way. Take the higher ground: if there was a fault on your end, take responsibility, thank the customer for pointing it out, and move on. A quick and sincere apology is all that’s needed.

#7. Build an even better relationship

Research shows that customers whose complaints are successfully resolved can become even more loyal than customers who never had a bad experience. A happy customer is one thing. But an unhappy customer whose voice has been heard can go on to become one of your biggest fans. That’s because the way you deal with a negative experience says a lot about your business and the value you place on the relationship with that customer. People notice a business that genuinely tries to make things right.

#8. Keep your response short, polite, and gracious

Struggling to find the right words? Try this: “I’m sorry we didn’t meet your expectations. Thank you for taking the time to give us this feedback so we can do better. Customers like you help make our business great.” Now send it, move on, and strive to do better next time.

#9. Let The Studio Director help

The Studio Director can help you monitor multiple websites for customer complaints, so you can address them in real time with cloud-based, rapid, and respectful responses. Give The Studio Director a try today!

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