How to Handle Customer Complaints


In my line of work, sales, you work at a breakneck pace to: prospect, develop customers, and close deals. 

At most organizations you’re dealing with:

Personal goals and expectations of how much you want to sell  

Internal support staff’s motivations and goals 

Management squeezing every last penny of revenue out of their sales force

As you can imagine, it’s a fast paced and high stress environment. Unfortunately, when you’re in a rush to accomplish everything, you can also make mistakes. ILet’s face it, it’s a fact of life that you’ll make mistakes (some more than others…) and not everyone will like you. In a business environment, this can translate to customer complaints. 

So how do you handle customer complaints? No one likes screwing up. And who likes having a mad customer on the phone or in front of you? 

I look at these moments as opportunities to improve and turn an angry customer into a loyal buying one. Think about it, customer complaints are direct feedback from the market. There is 1-2% of the population that will never be happy with whatever you do because they’re miserable people. Otherwise, make sure you address these customer complaints head on. 

How you handle customer complaints can make or break your business.

So here is how to handle customer complaints with grace: 

  1. Remain calm – This can be difficult when you’re encountered by someone yelling or rude. There is nothing to be gained by responding by yelling back. 
  2. Remember not to take the complaint personally. They’re not mad at you, they’re mad because the product or service they purchased isn’t meeting their expectations. 
  3. Use your active listening skills – The customer is angry and wants to vent. Hear them out. There’s a reason they’re angry. When they are done ranting, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to help clarify the customer complaint. 
  4. Sympathize – the customer wants to be acknowledged and heard. Empathize with the customer’s situation and unpleasant experience. Respect and Understanding can go a long way in turning this complaint around. 
  5. Apologize – Doesn’t matter if the customer has a legitimate complaint or not, apologize. Apologize whether or not it’s your fault they’re unhappy. Do it and you’ll increase your chances of salvaging the situation. 
  6. Find a solution – Now that you understand why the customer is unhappy, find a resolution. Get a manager involved when appropriate. Show the customer that you’re making an effort. In most cases, all the customer wants, is to be heard and to know you’re doing something about it. 
  7. Take a moment to breathe – As calmly as you can handle customer complaints, they are still stressful experiences. Take a 15 minute breather to disconnect and refresh. 
  8. Reflect – Take time to reflect and analyze the customer feedback you just received. Identify where and how the problem occurred, and figure out a solution to prevent it from happening again. 

Handling a customer complaint the right way can help you attain a lifelong customer. I’ve seen too many companies that go belly up because they don’t address complaints the right way. People are generally reasonable and just want to be taken care of. 

Let me know what strategies you use to handle customer complaints in the comments below. 

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