How to Handle Customer Complaints

Here are four quick steps to help your successfully tackle customer complaints.

As a small business owner, it’s likely you’re going to end up with at least one customer complaint. The hardest part can be avoiding the urge to take it personally and focus instead on problem solving.

Here are four quick steps to help your successfully tackle these complaints:

  1. Identify the Type of Complaint

    Assess what type of customer complaint this is. There are essentially three types of customer complaints – the person who has a legitimate issue, the person who just wants a little something extra, and the person who will never be satisfied. Identifying which type of complaint you’ve run into can be critical to effectively managing the issue.

  2. Handling Legitimate Issues

    For a customer with a legitimate problem, that problem is usually clear-cut. In this case, listening to the customer tell their story, empathizing with them, and doing the best you can to resolve the issue will go a long way. In this instance, they may even return to your business again because they were helped in a reasonable way. Ensuring that the customer knows that you are going out of your way to be reasonable and solve a problem can be the difference between continuing the customer relationship and ending it right there. Keeping more of those relationships, even the slightly difficult ones, can be the difference between staying in business and going out of it.

  3. Handling Your High-Maintenance Customers

    Sometimes a customer uses less than optimal products or services to try and get a little something extra. This type of customer complaint is likely annoying but even minimal efforts can keep that customer. The real danger with this type of situation is that if you stand your ground, they could leave a negative review for you on popular customer sites like Yelp. Removing or dealing with negative reviews can be much more difficult than just helping this type of customer out and they may end up leaving you a positive review that can help attract new business.

  4. Dealing With a Never Satisfied Customer

    Sometimes, for whatever reason, a customer becomes so agitated no matter what you do to resolve the situation, they won’t rest until they have fully and completely aired their grievances. This may include public airings on Twitter, or other social media sites as well. In this instance, the best you can do is try to accommodate them up to a point, and then you may have to end the relationship. Sometimes, you have to fire a customer. As much as you want to keep business, there are certain customers that can hurt the reputation of your company, or are requiring too much of your own time or your customer support team’s time. You must evaluate when it might be better to say goodbye then keep trying to make a hopeless situation right.

Once customer complaints are resolved, it’s important to review the game tape and find out how you might improve. Keeping accurate records of legitimate complaints can be valuable teaching tools for new employees, and reviewing performance.

Even if no one was “at fault” per se, accurate records can also help you go back to a product manufacturer about defects. If viewed in the right light, customer complaints can be a treasure trove of information about how to make your business better. They can also help you set improvement milestones for the future.


This article was prepared by Funding Gates contributor, Bailey McCann. Funding Gates in the online accounts receivable software for small businesses. Allowing businesses to track, organize and manage receivables all with simple clicks, Funding Gates is helping small businesses get paid faster. Funding Gates’ advice can be seen on AMEX Open Forum, AllBusiness, SCORE and many other small business sites.


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