The best solutions for handling customer complaints

By Dee Hawkins

If you work in the service industry, you probably know better than anyone how tough handling customer complaints can be. When owning your own service-based business it can be even more tricky to deal with unhappy customers. It’s your business – your baby that you built.

Holding your own in a conversation with any upset person requires a certain set of social skills. For many, this kind of situation can be made even harder by the social dynamic that exists between an employee and a customer.

The tips that we’re about to discuss will help you adequately handle customer complaints. Hopefully, these tips will help you with future customer complaints, and it should help you resolve the issue in a way that leaves both you and the customer happy.

So without further ado, let’s go over a few tips that you should remember whenever you find yourself handling customer complaints in your business.

The #1 rule

While we have a lot of tips for you to keep in mind, there’s one rule that all of these tips ultimately serve: When you’re talking to a customer, you want to be on the customer’s side.

After all, in any service-based business, the customer is the boss. Without the customer, the service industry doesn’t exist. Without their patronage, every one of your employees is out of the job, and your business wouldn’t exist.

Always remember that the customer’s approval is ultimately what you want. With that in mind, try to realize that customer complaints aren’t usually personal.

Remember that it isn’t personal

Of course, some complaints are personal. We’ve all probably seen someone get chewed out by a customer.

However, this kind of occurrence is usually an exception. Chances are, if you remember these tips, you won’t be on the receiving end of a personal customer complaint very often.

Typically, customer complaints aren’t directed at any one person. Customer complaints have more to do with a grievance that the customer has rather than you specifically as a person.

Whether it’s regarding a product that didn’t perform or a policy issue, customer complaints are not supposed to be taken personally.

Your business thrives on the satisfaction of your customers, so you’re not in the wrong if you side with them. Remember the siding with the customer isn’t the same as siding against yourself. After all, you’re on the customer’s side!

Always avoid making the customer feel as though they’re being opposed. Never make a customer feel as though they’re a bother.

When a customer has a complaint, all they want is a company representative who’s supportive and happy to help. They simply want to feel heard, which brings us to our next tip!

Let them know you’re listening

Actively listen, speak calmly, and make supportive comments if you can. A simple “I understand, I wouldn’t be happy either” or a “that does sound frustrating” should favor well.

You can even try repeating what they say back to them. Just make sure you change up the phrasing a little to avoid appearing sarcastic or if you are reading off a script. This is just a subtle, conversational way for you to let your customers know that you hear them.

Thank them!

If a customer is complaining, chances are, they’re complaining about a product or service that they paid for. In other words, they’re supporting your place of work!

When you get a customer complaint, nothing eases the tension like a simple “thank you for your support.” Again, this lets the customer know that you’re on their side, you value them, and that you truly want to help. After all, they are the reason your business can operate on a daily basis.

Don’t contradict

Prevent yourself from coming across as contradictory by avoiding words like “actually.” Even if the customer is misunderstanding something, when they’re upset, the last thing that they want is to be corrected. This is the case with customers, and it’s the case with people in general.

It might sound hard, but quite often, avoiding contradictory statements is as simple as changing one word. You can provide the customer with the correct information. It’s just important that you do it correctly.

Instead of saying “Actually, this is the case” or “No, that isn’t how that works,” try saying “Yes, I understand” and follow up with the information that they need.

Not contradicting the customer is really as simple as having the right attitude. Almost everything that you can say in a contradictory way, you can also say in a positive, affirming, and helpful way.

Resolve the issue

If you can resolve your customer’s issue, that’s great! The ordeal is over and the case has been closed.

If you have employees, let them know the circumstances when you should be contacted to resolve a customer’s problem. Create an easy to follow chain-of-command do you aren’t jumping on the phone every time a customer is slightly unhappy. That is, unless you truly love the customer-facing aspect of your business and want to be brought in for every single complaint.

Handling customer complaints like a pro

There are a lot of tips to remember here, but the #1 rule sums up all of them. Sometimes it can be hard, but as long as you remain on the side of the customer, you’ll be fine. After all, a representative that wants to help is exactly what a customer is looking for.


Dee Hawkins is the founder and CEO of A Better Answer Call Centers. She has been the recipient of the Great Women of Texas award, several industry quality awards for each of her three office locations, and recently was honored with the ATSI Hall of Fame Award for her lifetime commitment and leadership in the call center industry. Dee is currently writing a book about working in telecommunications and can often be found tending to her garden and fruit trees with her poodle, Star.”

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