Handling customer complaints

Handling complaints
By Marketing team
September 15, 2017Articles

When faced with an unsatisfied customer, let’s face it, most people would prefer losing their cell phone rather than handle a complaint!

Julie Lamothe, Assistant Manager – Business Development
Having worked in various industries (hotels, recruitment, finance), both as a customer service agent and as a manager, Julie has nearly 30 years of customer service experience. Recognized for her dedication towards customer satisfaction and her know-how in developing lasting relationships with her clients, complaint management is also part of her everyday life and something she considers to be an important aspect of customer loyalty management.

No matter what type of enterprise you own or work for, no matter what type of industry you’re in, you have to deal with customers. Most of the time, everything is peachy but sooner or later every enterprise has to deal with delicate situations. And when faced with an unsatisfied customer, let’s face it, most people would prefer losing their cell phone rather than handle a complaint!

These conversations can be stressful, customers are most likely upset, and some (but luckily very rare) are just plain rude. You also may sweep it under the rug, assuming that some people like to complain, and you have better things to do with your time then listening to a customer vent. And sometimes you’re just not up for a confrontation.


There are many reasons why we’d rather avoid addressing complaints. But don’t let the fear of confrontation get in the way of an opportunity. Yes OPPORTUNITY!

How often do you actually get real unbiased feedback about your business? Let’s be honest, you rarely do. Customers have firsthand experience of your business’ products or services. When a customer complains he only has his own interest at heart. He paid for a product or service that didn’t live up to his expectations. He’s been wronged and feels strongly enough about it to take time out of his busy schedule to contact you. You can’t get more truthful feedback than that! Even your own employees might not give you this level of insight out of fear that you could shoot the messenger.

Here are some statistics that may help put things into perspective. According to some TARP studies [1] (now known as CX Solutions):

  • Only about 3.8% of unsatisfied customers actually complain to the company itself. Let’s think about this one for a minute. If you receive one complaint that means that 25 other people were not satisfied with your product/services. That’s a lot. Definitely worth looking into.
  • The rest (96%) will stop buying and will tell 9 to 10 people within a week about their bad experience. And with the help of social media today, this number is most likely much higher and a small problem that could have been resolved quickly might take considerable proportions in a very short period of time.

Your company’s reputation should be at the top of your priorities. Angry customers can give you vital information about your business, so don’t dismiss it. Seize all opportunities to find out why your hard-earned customers could decide to opt for the competition.


The goal of the interaction is to preserve your customer’s loyalty and your reputation. That’s all. Then again, that’s a lot! Here are 6 steps for handling customer complaints.

Step 1: Call back quickly

This is indicative of how much you care about customer satisfaction and your reputation, and it will help defuse the situation.

Step 2: Listen (and don’t interrupt the customer)

Let the customer tell its story. Stay calm and look past the fury. Do some active listening: repeat what you heard and confirm with the customer to make sure you understand the situation properly. Ask questions if necessary and do not jump to conclusions. Most importantly do not argue.

Step 3: Demonstrate concern, empathy and respect

Put yourself in the shoes of the client and let him know you understand its perspective. He needs to feel that you’re on its side and that you’re taking the situation seriously.

Step 4: Apologize

Should it be the case, acknowledge that a mistake was made and apologize. This will go a long way to calm the client and defuse the situation. Don’t overdo it, but do it with sincerity.

Step 5: Offer a solution

Or better yet: Ask the customer what would be an acceptable solution for him. If you can’t oblige to its solution, find a suitable compromise and make sure it meets its expectations.

Step 6: Solve the problem

Solve the problem quickly, and if possible on the first interaction. Make sure that at the end of the conversation it has been entirely resolved and that your customer is satisfied.

Know when to let go…

Unfortunately you can’t win them all. If you get to the point where a customer doesn’t want to do business with you anymore, just surrender to their decision and proceed quickly. Don’t aggravate the situation by arguing or pushing back. Know that you don’t necessarily lose the customer forever; he might come back eventually. But if you aggravate the problem by hassling him, he will surely never return.


You can turn a complaint into a positive experience for both you and your customer. Its insight will tell you a lot about your business, about what the issues are, and you may be surprised to find out about sources of aggravation you never even expected. Complaints can guide you on how to improve your business and even how to be one step ahead of the competition. You have everything to gain from listening to your customers. Studies show that a fixed relationship may even create a more loyal customer. So seize all opportunities; customer loyalty is extremely valuable!