Is the Customer Always Right? Your Guide to Managing Customer Complaints

Research shows that only 1 in 26 dissatisfied customers will directly complain to a business, with the remaining showing their unhappiness by leaving and  telling other people about their bad experience. This makes customer complaints something you should view in a positive light, as they are giving you the opportunity to put things right and avoid further loses. While these complaints can make you feel defensive, it's vital that you instead take the opportunity to improve and turn those customers into loyal brand followers.

Developing a Complaints Policy

Customers complain because they've experienced a problem related to your business. This signals a disconnect between what the customer expected and what your business delivered. Sometimes this is related to the customer's expectations or assumptions, and other times related to something your business did wrong. 

If your business has a complaints handling policy, now is the time to bring that out and follow it through. If not, you need to create one which explains how customers can complain, the steps you will take in handling the complains, some solutions that could be used to resolve the complaints and a timeframe for the process.

Here is an example of a six step process you could use when responding to customer complaints:

  1. Listen - thank them for letting you know about the issue, apologise and accept ownership, and remain polite.
  2. Record - obtain the specific details of the complaint and then record these in one place so all employees can access them. This helps to keep everyone informed, as well as identifying reoccurring issues or trends.
  3. Check - go through the complaint again and check that it is recorded correctly, filling in any gaps.
  4. Identify fixes - you could ask the customer what they would like you to respond with, or make an offer on how you can fix the problem.
  5. Be quick - work to resolve the complaint quickly as this reduces further escalation and increases customer satisfaction
  6. Follow up - let the customer know if there will be any delays in resolving the complaint, and follow up afterwards to see how satisfied they were with the process. 

Responding to Customer Complaints

Is the customer always right? No, not necessarily. However, when they are making a complaint, it is your responsibility to take it seriously and respond accordingly. Receiving and handling complaints can take an emotional toll though, and that's where you need to have several strategies available:

  • Have an escape route - you don't need to put up with angry and abusive customers; simply tell them that you cannot continue with this conversation now and either hang up, ask them to leave, or leave yourself
  • Breathe & keep calm - it's natural to feel upset, but showing this doesn't help the situation. If you need a break, tell the customer you will come back to them later
  • Avoid disagreeing - the customer may not be right and you might not see the problem. They think there is one though and when you disagree with them, this can escalate the situation

Using Customer Complaints to Your Advantage

The bad news is it is inevitable that your business will receive complaints. The good news is that you can use these to your advantage. 

Complaints are unsolicited feedback; a way of customers showing you how you could make your business better. Value each one because for every one you receive, you are not hearing 25 others, and 13% of those 25 are telling their friends instead which isn't beneficial to your brand.

It's a good idea to make it as easy as possible for your customers to make complaints because there are some great benefits your business can receive:

  • increased customer loyalty 
  • identify issues with your products or services
  • learn more about how a customer uses your product or service
  • help you understand more about your customer's wants, needs and ideas
  • improved brand reputation

So instead of seeing complaints as something negative, welcome them, respond appropriately and make changes accordingly. For further advice and support, we recommend contacting an HR specialist.

Posted: Friday 11 March 2022


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