10 Clever Ways to Respond to Customer Complaints

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By John
March 24, 2022

If you are into customer services, you must've faced many customer complaints in your lifetime. Unfortunately, most of them are never on a good note. The customers may be angry, upset, disappointed, aggressive, abusive, or simply unhappy.

Plus, they may vent these complaints on multiple platforms. Easy access to social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, discussion forums, FaceBook, etc., makes it easy for the word to spread.

The objections can be made in person, by phone, email, or online chat. So what makes a good customer services representative? Someone who knows what, how, and when to respond.

So here we are with a comprehensive list of clever ways to respond to customer complaints - both online and in-person.

Importance of Customer Complaint Resolution

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Today, all businesses thrive to build lasting and strong relations with their customer. Therefore, the way the customers view them, think of them, and relate to them is of most importance for them to strive.

So, there's more pressure to get positive customer reviews and ensure the customers have a positive experience with your brand and product!

However, still, we cannot be 100% equipped to ensure the customer leaves delighted at all times. Hence the need for the customer services departments.

Whenever there's a complaint or a problem, you need to have a resource in place to help resolve the issue ASAP. As per a survey, 85% of the customers believe companies should respond to all emails within an hour.

However, it's much more than being prompt in complaint resolution. You need the right words the right way of handling the complaint - no matter which tone or form you are dealing with.

Before we look at the clever ways to respond to complaints, let's look at a synopsis of how complaint handling works as a process.

Complaint Resolution Mechanism

Here is a stepwise way to address any complaint that gets through to you:

  • First, listen to or read the whole complaint of the customer.

  • Avoid the urge to jump to a solution or response.

  • Once you are through, analyze the problem. Take a moment to breathe in.

  • Think of what action plan you'd follow for the particular complaint.

  • Simultaneously, thank the customer for their time and reaching out to you.

  • Apologize sincerely and restate the problem so that there's no ambiguity.

  • Now offer a proposed solution in detail.

  • Thank the customer again and ask for their feedback.

Top Customer Complaints and Clever Responses

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So here are some of the top complaints customers come with and how you can cleverly deal with the situation.

1. The Order Never Arrived

Some of the most anguished complaints stem from the order getting delayed or not arriving at all. Customers put in a lot when they place an order. Some even track it on a minute-by-minute basis, and any delays are bound to spark a lot of anger towards your brand.

So, now when you have an angry and perhaps abusive customer on call, how do you tackle the situation?

Response

First, apologize and then track the order. Usually, a simple apology can work best. As per a survey, 45% of the people withdrew a complaint once the company apologized, whereas only 23% withdrew it on receiving some form of compensation.

Check why the order is delayed. Maybe it's delayed for a reason, or it's been dropped off at the wrong location. Check for those reasons first.

However, if it's lost, you need to come up with a lot more than a simple apology.

So a good response in this situation could be:

“We have noted your complaint and notified the department involved. We will sort the issue shortly.”

A better way would be to buffer it with a complimentary gift or offer for the customer.

2. Customer Receives Damaged/Wrong Product

Another complaint usually customers have has to do with the product itself. For example, they may have received the wrong product, or the product may fail to function as is.

So, in this situation, too, the anguish is justified. However, the response must be structured thoughtfully so the situation stays in control.

Response

The best way to respond would be to accept the mistake and then look further into the matter. You can even ask the customer for additional pictures or a complete description of the product. The one-liner you can use on the phone, in person, or even in email can be:

“We are truly sorry for the situation. Here’s what we can do to help.”

Then, offer them a list of proposed solutions like a refund or replacement.

You can even go wacky or downright humorous when dealing with the situation. For example, take a look at the Zappos case. The customer rep sent such a zealous letter and a refund to the customer that was bound to make a lasting impression.

3. Poor Customer Service Experience

Sometimes the customers can be very distraught due to a negative interaction with your team member or service. In such a case, the temperatures can rise pretty quickly, and they can vent their anger out all over social media.

That's like brand suicide, so you need to think and act fast to whip out the fire before it spreads out.

Response

If you are dealing with the customer face-to-face or on the phone, your response must be reassuring and fast. Emails and chat can give you a few moments to think through before responding.

But, for an in-person encounter, the best strategy is to apologize and empathize.

The customer has been through a challenging situation and needs to be heard. They also need reassurance that the same will not happen again, plus they may even want to be compensated.

So your best response is:

“I’ve forwarded your complaint to our customer's management team, and I am very sorry for your experience. I understand how frustrating it is for you, and accept we have fallen short of our promise to our valued client here.”

Then you can give them a timeline and how you propose to resolve the matter. Don't leave out any details and make it personal, so they know you truly understand and are there to help them.

That'll help curb the damage!

4. Customer Complaint Unresolved

The customer's anger would know no bounds if their complaint isn't resolved as proposed in the given timeline. In that case, be ready to face any distraught clients who'd walk right in and give off a bit of steam.

Response

In such a case again, your best bet is to be patient and listen first.

Then say something like:

“Your complaint resolution is in process, and our team is working on it. It is now our priority, and we will have the issue resolved in (timeline) working days”.

End with a note of apology. However, a better way to tackle this is not to let the situation come up to begin with. There may always be procedural delays, so stay in touch with the customer if you don't want things to escalate.

Update them about their complaint via phone or email, so they know the matter is already being looked into before they barge right into your office.

5. Unanswered Email

So the customer took the time to write to you about their grievances and got no response. They felt unheard and would think your company gives no importance to its customers. So they will either write another email or step in to make themselves heard.

Response

You need to draft a response with empathy, apology, and concern. Make it sound genuine and let them know they are always heard at your company.

Here's a sample response that can help in such a situation:

“I’m so sorry we could not get back to your email in time. However, we have alerted our team about the glitch we faced with the notification of your concerned email.”

Next, you can give them your direct number or any other contact details to get to you directly. That would also open a channel of trust between you and the customer.

Further, you can consistently offer them special future discounts or offers to cushion the impact.

6. Don't Like the Product/Service

Sometimes, there may not be a reason behind the complaint; it may stem from personal likes or dislikes.

Since the product or service is fine, you cannot haggle with the customer. However, you need to make them feel heard to win their trust. So here's how you can respond to them.

Response

You need to acknowledge the customer here and also make them feel important. So something like:

"I understand how frustrating it is for you."

This is a good opening for you. You can then ask them for their valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement. Make them feel heard and validate their concerns.

7. Simply Too Frustrated

If a customer is too frustrated with your service or for other reasons, they may struggle with describing the real issue. But, it may all be just words and anger you hear; no real problem or actual complaint. So, how do we deal with that?

Response

First, you need to tone things down a bit. Then, ask them to describe the real issue. Ask something like this:

"Okay, I need to understand what's happening here. Can you please reiterate the problem starting from the very beginning?"

It may seem difficult to deal with an angry client at first, But often with the proper guidance and prompting, they can pinpoint the exact issue so you can help resolve it for them.

8. Customer Feels Let Down

A customer may feel betrayed or let down by your product or brand. It may not live up to the mark, or it may not offer what it promised. The word can spread quickly and mar the brand's reputation and your relationship with other clients.

Response

The ideal response would be to apologize instantly!

A simple:

"I am sorry for your bad experience with our brand."

It should suffice, or you can couple that up with an accurate acceptance and an offer. But usually, a word of honest apology is enough and can save this and all other future relationships.

9. Impatient customers

Sometimes it may take longer to resolve a particular complaint. Customers tend to get impatient and hence, lose their cool. In such scenarios, they may lash out and tell the whole world about their experience with your brand.

Thanks to social media, it's easier to get the viral word out within minutes. So if you don't respond promptly, things are bound to get way out of hand.

Response

Here's some damage control:

"We are extremely sorry for the delay. Thanks for waiting. We are getting you connected to the relevant department."

The point is to make sure you update the customer about their complaint status. That way, they will feel they are included and important to you. If they ever think the company is out of touch, they may feel you have abandoned them and resort to negative reviews.

10. Better Competitor Offering

A long-term customer may have found a better competitor offering a similar product or service. Since the market is becoming increasingly competitive, it's easier for consumers to find and switch to alternative offers, whichever seems better.

In such a scenario, you cannot simply back off. Instead, take it as an opportunity and respond accordingly.

Response

In response to the customer's complaint, news about the competition, you can:

  • Propose a better offer

  • Thank them for notifying you about it.

It's like getting market insight for free! A well thought out response in such a case would be:

"Thank you for bringing it to my notice. I can match the rates for you and even offer you a 10% discount for being loyal to our brand for years."

Tips for Responding to Customer Complaints

Ironic as it is, sometimes your job as a customer complaint handler is bound to get annoying. At times, the customer could be at fault too. They may be picking on you for the wrong reasons, maybe even reviewing the wrong company, product, or place.

So, apart from the responses discussed above, here are some tips and tricks to get you through your day.

  • Keep your cool no matter what.

  • Don't play the blame game; accept the criticism politely.

  • Empathize and be genuine about it.

  • Give them a host of suggestions or options and ask for their opinion before deciding.

Bottom Line

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No matter how challenging the customer or the compliant, the key is your response! Make sure that no complaint goes unanswered.

As a good customer services rep, think of it as a window for improvement for your company. So think through, and keep empathy and understanding as your key weapons. That way, you can work on building solid relationships with your clients and take your brand on a prosperous future.

Photos by Julien L on Unsplash