Customer Service: How to deal with customer complaints

Perhaps you spend a great deal of time and effort on striving to deliver great customer service. But despite your best efforts you still get complaints. Don’t be disheartened if you receive a complaint – it can actually be far worse not to! Many dissatisfied customers simply take their business elsewhere. You never hear their reasons for doing so and you never get a chance to make amends or to win them back.

Bill Gates is famously quoted as saying: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  No doubt they can also be a source of stress and take up huge amounts of your time.

Remember, complaints can actually turn out to be opportunities – but only if you have the skills to handle them effectively.

Solve Customer Complaints

Steps to handling a customer complaint


  1. Stay calm and in control of your emotions. If a customer is angry or making accusations, it’s easy to feel defensive, aggressive, impatient, annoyed, upset – to name just a few emotions. If you can manage your own emotions, then you are in a better position to calm the customer and move to a successful resolution.
  1. Listen actively to the customer. This means paying close attention not only to the words being said, but also tuning in to the customer’s feelings and emotions. Let the customer ‘get it off their chest’ and vent some frustration.
  1. Make sure you have understood. Sometimes this means asking a few questions to clarify things or to gather some facts. It’s a good idea to summarise or paraphrase what the customer has told you.
  1. Empathise with the customer. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and do your best to see things from their perspective. It’s about showing sensitivity to the customer’s feelings. Whatever you say must sound genuine and reassuring, so choose your words carefully and use positive body language.
  1. Apologise to the customer (or at least acknowledge). You can always apologise for the situation, without assigning blame and at times without admitting any liability. Never pass the buck or try to say it was someone else’s fault – even when you know that someone else within your business did make an error. When customers hear apologies it helps them to calm down and move on to more rational thinking and behaviour. You can then begin to focus on possible solutions.
  1. Resolve the issue. Remember solutions are what matters most to the customer, so that they should be your primary focus too. If possible, offer alternative solutions so that the customer has a choice and feels involved. Confirm the solution with the customer, making sure they agree and are happy with what has been decided.

By handling a customer complaint professionally and positively, you can avert a potential disaster and turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one who will come back and do business with you again.

Just a few words of warning: never make promises that you cannot keep, so as to get ‘off the hook’ temporarily. By all means take ownership of the problem, but don’t overstep your authority, just to keep a customer happy.

Please contact me if you would like to find out about training courses on Customer Service. We can deliver tailored or fully bespoke programmes to meet the needs of your business.