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How to Handle Customer Complaints to Cultivate Customer Loyalty

As your business grows, you’re bound to deal with customer complaints at some point or another.

If you’re a customer-centric business, then customer complaints are practically inevitable. Something may go wrong, a mistake may be made, and customer expectations may not be met, resulting in a complaint.

However, customer complaints don’t have to be devastating for your business. In fact, a customer complaint can provide an opportunity for you to showcase great customer service and win over a dissatisfied customer. Being able to handle customer complaints effectively is essential if you want to maximize customer retention, maintain a good relationship with your target audience, and bolster your brand’s reputation.

While catering to unhappy customers may not be the most pleasant part of running your business, it’s a necessary skill to have if you want to thrive in the long run.

In this post, we go into more detail about the importance of dealing with dissatisfied customers and negative comments and explain how to handle customer complaints in a way that leaves all parties satisfied.

Why it’s important to handle customer complaints carefully

Customers are essential to your business. As the ones purchasing your products or services, they collectively have a direct impact on whether your business grows or fails. This is especially true if your business operates in a highly competitive industry. If a customer has a negative experience with your company, they may not hesitate to take their business elsewhere.

When customers voice complaints, they often feel that their expectations haven’t been met in their interactions with your business. Whether they had a problem with the product they received or a negative interaction with one of your employees, the submission of a customer complaint indicates a gap between a customer’s expectations and their actual experience.

It’s more important than ever to handle customer complaints carefully, as customers have a lot of power in the digital world. If a customer complaint isn’t properly addressed, this could lead to the customer writing a negative review of your business online or posting about their negative experience on social media. Once online, a customer’s negative feedback can be seen by hundreds or thousands of potential customers, and this can drive away business and hurt your brand’s reputation.

While no business owner wants to receive customer complaints, these complaints can actually present an opportunity for your company. First of all, when customers complain directly to you, they typically don’t abandon your brand entirely but rather give you a chance to rectify the situation.

Providing the customer with an effective solution can make them even more loyal than they were before. Additionally, receiving negative feedback from customers can help you identify the root cause of the problem and find ways to improve your business going forward.

8 steps for handling customer complaints

When a customer complains, determining the appropriate response can be harder than it sounds. Nevertheless, it’s important to train your customer service team so that they can handle common customer complaints and make sure issues are resolved quickly and effectively.

Check out the steps below to learn how to handle customer complaints in a way that leaves customers feeling satisfied.

The 8 steps for handling customer complaints

1. Listen to the customer

If a customer has complained, it means that they want their unique problem to be heard. Brushing off a customer complaint or failing to fully understand the problem can make the situation worse. So train the customer service reps at your company in active listening techniques that allow customers to feel heard and seen by your organization.

2. Show empathy

Empathy is a key part of resolving any customer-facing problem or confrontation. Practicing empathy means stepping into the customer’s shoes and trying to see a problem from their point of view–why are they upset? And what actions would resolve the issue from their perspective?

Not only can showing empathy help you identify a solution to a problem, but it can also make the job of your customer service reps easier. Using empathy statements and attempting to relate to the customer often helps in calming everyone down.

If a dissatisfied customer senses that you genuinely understand their frustration and care about their problem, then they’ll likely be more willing to work with you toward a solution.

3. Apologize

When dealing with unhappy customers, an apology can go a long way. If you made a mistake or didn’t deliver on a particular promise, sincerely apologize to the customer who’s complaining and acknowledge the validity of their situation.

At the same time, offering an apology can be beneficial even in situations where you don’t feel like you were wrong. An apology allows you to defuse the situation and move closer to finding a resolution.

4. Ask thorough questions

After listening to a customer’s complaint, make sure to ask any relevant questions in order to better understand the situation. With more information to work with, your customer service representatives will have an easier time finding a suitable solution to the problem and providing great customer care.

5. Loop in necessary parties

Communication is the key to success when solving just about any problem. Keeping your team in the loop can enable you to resolve customer complaints more quickly. Additionally, communicating a customer complaint to your team can prevent the mistake or miscommunication that prompted the complaint from happening again.

6. Find a swift solution

Perhaps the most important part of handling customer complaints is finding a resolution–and quickly.

No unhappy customer wants to wait around for days or weeks as you come up with a solution for their problem. Instead, prepare your customer service team with guidelines on go-to solutions for common customer complaints and limitations on what they can offer customers in a given situation.

7. Follow up

Following up on a customer complaint can be a great way to engage with your audience and show that you care. In many cases, following up on a customer complaint takes the form of sending out a customer satisfaction survey. In this survey, the customer can rate their level of satisfaction with their customer service experience, which can in turn provide you with valuable data and insight.

Following up with customer complaints will help you stand out from the competition by demonstrating excellent customer service.

8. Create a record

From the time a customer complaint is first submitted to the moment it gets resolved, record your interactions with the customer. Recording customer interactions can provide you with information that helps improve your products, services, and overall customer experience.

At the same time, having a record of communication with a particular customer can provide your customer service reps with context if that customer makes another complaint in the future.

76% of customers said they would switch to a competitor if they had multiple poor customer service experiences. Source: Zendesk

Example of handling a customer complaint

To illustrate how the above steps may be put into practice, let’s take a look at an example of how to handle a customer complaint. In this example, let’s say you run a small business selling artisanal candles online.

One of your customers ordered a set of candles but, unfortunately, found upon opening their package that the glass candle jars were shattered. The customer is understandably upset and sends in a complaint–so how do you respond? Just stick to the steps we outlined above:

  1. Listen: The customer tells you that they’re frustrated because the candles they ordered are expensive but seemed to come in flimsy packaging, thus leading to breakage. This feedback could be an opportunity for you to improve your product packaging.
  2. Empathize: Acknowledge the mistake and tell the customer that you understand their frustration.
  3. Apologize: Apologize to the customer for not meeting their expectations and thank them for bringing the issue to their attention.
  4. Ask questions: In this case, you might ask the customer directly what you can do to make the situation right.
  5. Communicate with the team: Speak with relevant team members about the problem.
  6. Find a solution: In this situation, you’d likely offer the customer a replacement order or a refund.
  7. Follow up: After the situation has been resolved, consider sending a follow-up email to your customer where you ask them to rate their customer service experience.
  8. Create a record: Record all interactions with the customer in question. Perhaps you’ll identify a pattern of candles arriving broken due to insufficient packaging. If so, you can take action to solve this problem as soon as possible.

Tips for handling complaints

Now that you have a guide for how to handle customer complaints, you can better serve your customers. When implementing the steps listed in this article and dealing with unhappy customers, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:

Tips for handling angry customers: stay calm, give them your full attention, thank them for telling you, explain how you will solve the problem, follow up
  • Stay calm: Never get upset or confrontational with an angry customer. Instead, stay calm in order to facilitate a civil interaction and reach a solution.
  • Give them your full attention: Angry customers often just want to be heard. When communicating with an angry customer, make sure to give them your full and undivided attention.
  • Thank them: Thanking upset customers will demonstrate that you’re receptive to feedback and ready to find a solution.
  • Explain how you will solve their problem: When dealing with any customer complaint, it’s important to explain to the customer in clear terms how and when you will solve their problem.
  • Follow up: Following up on a customer complaint allows you to re-engage with the customer and potentially collect valuable feedback about your company’s customer service experience.

Create loyal customers with exceptional customer care

The importance of customer service can’t be understated. By providing excellent customer service, you can retain current customers, win over new customers, and build a stellar reputation for your brand. Effectively dealing with complaints is part of building customer relationships and establishing yourself as a customer-centric company.

With Mailchimp, you can easily manage customer relationships, grow your audience, and use specialized tools to provide outstanding customer service. From sending out customer surveys to engaging your audience through email marketing campaigns, Mailchimp’s all-in-one marketing platform allows you to keep clients happy.

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