Much as you try to delight all your customers all the time, your growing business will inevitably receive its share of customer complaints. If you run a small business, it’s easy to feel personally affected by a customer complaint and to wonder how it can all have gone so wrong.


Don’t Beat Yourself Up


However, instead of berating yourself and perhaps your colleagues or staff about what went wrong, there is a far more productive way to deal with customer complaints. If you and your team handle complaints effectively, each instance can become an opportunity to create a great customer experience—one that will live in your customer’s mind much longer than the issue from which the complaint arose.


Follow These Tips to Handle Complaints Effectively


The following tips will help you to deal with any customer complaint you receive in a way that will transform the situation into a great customer experience.

  • Listen and understand—that means really listen, don’t interrupt. Hear the customer out
  • Demonstrate empathy (not sympathy—that’s different) to create a bond with the customer
  • Ask questions to make sure you have the whole story—don’t jump to conclusions
  • Don’t challenge the customer’s complaint—however wrong or unjustified you think it is
  • Summarise what the customer has told you when she has finished airing her complaint
  • Make an unconditional apology, without “buts” or references to who might be to blame
  • Thank the customer for bringing their issue to your attention
  • Offer a solution, with a focus on what you can do, rather than what you cannot
  • Once a solution is agreed upon, execute it—fast!


Finally: Put the Icing on the Great Customer Experience Cake


If you follow the tips above, your customer should already be reframing the experience that started as dissatisfaction with some element of your product or service provision. So now you have to put the icing on the cake. In other words, don’t forget the follow-up.

Within 48 hours of the complaint resolution, make contact with your customer, by email if you must, but preferably with a phone call and ask them if the problem was resolved to their satisfaction. This shows your customer that her complaint has not been forgotten and that your company really cares about making reparations.


Turn Customer Complaints into Opportunities 


When you handle a customer complaint efficiently, effectively, politely and with a genuine demonstration of concern, the end result can be a great experience for the customer and a quality endorsement, rather than a black mark for your business.


Just remember that the follow-up is critical, since it can be easy to overlook this once the practical problem solving has been completed.


Of course, if you make use of a virtual assistant to handle some of your business administration activities, you can always give him the task of managing customer complaints or at least making follow-up contact calls or emails. If you do use a virtual assistant to handle the whole process though, be sure he or she is trained to handle complaints as per the tips provided in this guide.