How do I Handle Customer Complaints?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Customer complaints come up in businesses of all sizes, and handling them quickly and appropriately is key to retaining good relations with customers and improving the business overall. Paying attention and listening closely to a complaining customer is one of the most important things, and it's also commonly forgotten when people are faced with an angry customer. Having a system in place for handling complaints and training all staff members to deal with them will avoid situations where complaints are handled badly.

When a customer approaches to complain, it is important to consider the relationship with the customer rather than an individual situation. Rather than trying to retain an order, the focus should be on retaining the customer, in other words. Surveys involving customer complaints demonstrate that people are highly likely to return if their complaints are handled rapidly and well. People who feel that their customer complaints were handled poorly may do more than not return. They can tell friends and family and may also post hostile reviews online, and this will result in a loss of business.


The first step is to listen and reflect back, showing that the customer's complaint is fully understood. While responding to customer complaints, people should avoid placing blame or trying to explain. For example, one might say, “what I am hearing is that your entrees took a long time to come out of the kitchen,” instead of, “your food might have taken a long time to come out of the kitchen because our staff is busy.” The first response demonstrates that the customer is being listened to and that the person handling the complaint understands why the customer is unhappy.

Making apologies after demonstrating understanding of the problem is important, as is offering a concrete solution to resolve the issue and make the customer inclined to come back in the future. In the example above, the person handling the complaint might offer to take the entrees off the bill, and provide a card offering free drinks or desserts with a future meal, to give the customer a reason to return.

A common problem that arises with customer complaints is that staff members are not trained to deal with them, or are trained to pass customers on to someone in a senior position. This can result in situations where customers feel that they are not being heard. Establishments that train all staff to handle complaints and empower staff members to do things like removing charges from bills or offering discounts to resolve complaints may have more satisfactory complaint resolutions.


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Post 1

The worst way to handle customer complaints is to ignore them. If a customer complains, no matter what the complaint, that complaint has to be acknowledged and taken seriously. Acknowledging that something has gone wrong is almost as important as fixing the wrong.

As a customer who has been ignored I know how frustrating it is to have your complaints minimized. You almost feel like you have been cheated. You gave them the money they asked for and they sold you a product or service that did not live up to your expectations.

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