How To Respond To Customer Complaints

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported, which means we earn commissions from links on Crazy Egg. Commissions do not affect our editorial evaluations or opinions.

No one likes dealing with customer complaints, but getting it wrong can make or break a business. In fact, 83% of customers agree they feel more loyal to brands who respond to their complaints. And while dealing with angry customers seems scary, it’s actually a great opportunity to identify problems, build relationships, and strengthen your brand. 

Why Responding to Customer Complaints is Worth It 

Responding to customer complaints isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s vital to a successful business. Your reputation depends on positive reviews, and customer complaints might be your only way to find out when something is wrong. 

A study by Lee Resources International found that for every one customer complaint, there were 26 other customers with the same complaint who stayed quiet. If you don’t respond to customer complaints, you risk missing major problems with your business until it’s too late to fix them 

You also give yourself an opportunity to resolve problems and change a customer’s opinion when you respond to a complaint. If you ignore it, you can be sure that customers will think about leaving or choosing one of your competitors. 

By responding to customer complaints and doing everything you can to fix them, you can identify problems in your business faster, build a great online reputation, and make customers more loyal in the long run. 

You’re also much more likely to get referrals from your customers and recommendations if you have good service and build a reputation as a brand that cares about its customers. 

The Investment Needed to Respond to Customer Complaints 

Dealing with customer complaints isn’t expensive, but it can get overwhelming, especially if you have a large business. 

One investment you might want to consider making is hiring a customer service rep or a VA who can respond to complaints. This can range in price from a full-time salaried position to a part-time VA on an hourly retainer. You can shop around for a cheaper VA if you hire a freelancer, but you do need to make sure you’re paying a fair wage and hiring them legally. 

Another investment you should consider making is in an automation tool, like Issuetrak, to help you track, monitor, and respond to customer complaints. As your business grows, you’ll struggle to answer every customer quickly and solve every problem – but even one missed complaint can do a lot of damage to your reputation. 

Using a tool like Issuetrak, that sends out triggered apology messages, assigns customers complaint IDs, and keeps track of whether or not the problem is resolved will avoid making customers angrier and help you stay organized. 

Screenshot of Issuetrak home page with headline that says "Turn complaints into compliments"

6 Steps to Responding to Customer Complaints 

Responding to customer complaints doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you have a good process in place. Here are the steps you should take to turn your customer’s negative feedback into a positive experience: 

Step 1 – Get a System Organized 

Before you are ready to deal with customers, you need to get your business, and your team, organized. 

This includes putting together a system for monitoring customer complaints, answering them, and resolving them. 

You’ll need to decide if you are going to hire someone to handle customer service. You’ll also need to brief your team, if you have one, on the procedure for dealing with and resolving complaints. 

And, if you’re planning to use software to help you monitor and track complaints, you’ll need to choose one and download it. 

Here are some of the key things you should organize before you even start working with customers: 

Decide On Who Will Deal With Customer Complaints And Customer Service 

You might want to hire one person to do this, or delegate it to one person on your team. 

Maybe you even want to deal with them personally – but if you do, just make sure you’ll have enough time to do it. Running a business and dealing with customers will get very stressful very quickly. 

Choose Software To Help 

Nothing will escalate a complaint faster than a customer being ignored. Using a tool to help you monitor, track, and respond to complaints will make sure every customer feels heard and you never miss a problem. Issuetrak is a solid choice.

Screenshot of Issuetrak Solutions page with headline that says "Flexible complaint management software that works across industries" and a list of solutions for municipalities, healthcare, and finance

Create A Spreadsheet Of Common Problems And Solutions

You won’t be able to anticipate every problem, but it will help your customer service team to have a basic idea of what they might deal with and how they should resolve it. 

A spreadsheet is a good idea because every time a new problem arises, you can update the spreadsheet with the solution. This makes it easier to train new customer service reps as your company grows. 

Set Out A Company Complaints Policy 

A complaints policy should include a few basic things, like procedures when acknowledging a complaint or language that should be used with customers. It should also address when and how the complaint should be escalated, and whether or not you offer customers a gift or a discount as an apology. 

How you approach customer complaints will obviously vary based on your business model and size, but the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to handle unhappy customers.  

Step 2 – Acknowledge the Complaint

When a customer complains, the first thing you should do is acknowledge them. 

You might not be able to resolve anything straight away, but the sooner the customer knows they have been heard, the less angry they will be. 

Most customers are reasonable—they are just frustrated and want to feel acknowledged. So the worst thing you can do is ignore them while you try to figure out a solution. 

The longer they are left wondering if you’ve even received their complaint, the angrier they’ll get, and the situation will escalate into something worse than it needs to be. 

Acknowledging the complaint is easy. All it takes is an email or a DM letting them know that you’ve received the complaint and you’re working on a solution. 

You’ve probably received emails like this in the past, saying things like “Our team has opened a case for your complaint and will review it within 24 hours.” 

There are also a couple of extra things you should include with your acknowledgment that will help diffuse the situation as soon as possible: 

Apologize Straight Away 

Even if you don’t agree with them – you can say something like ‘We’re so sorry that you’ve experienced a problem. Apologizing will make the customer feel validated and will avoid them becoming angrier while you look for a solution 

Give Them A Timeline (And Stick To It) 

In your first email, you should also give them a timeline of how long it will take to respond to the complaint. Customers are less likely to become angry if they have clear information about how and when the problem is being addressed. 

Just make sure that you ALWAYS follow up with them in the given timeline, even if you don’t have a solution. Nothing will make your customer angrier than getting a false promise. 

You can say something like “We’ve opened a case for your complaint. Our team will review it and get back to you with an update within the next 2 business days.” After 2 business days, update them on progress, even if the problem isn’t fully resolved. 

Include A Case Number Or A Dedicated Agent

Even if you don’t really need these, you want to make the customer feel like they are a priority. Giving them as much information as possible (a contact email, a case number, a dedicated customer support agent, etc) will show them you are taking the problem, and them, seriously. 

The best way to make sure you always get back to the customer right away is by using automation software like Issuetrak. 

Issuetrak can help you send out triggered emails and messages, send automated updates on cases, and manage your complaints in a team using a task manager. They also give you options to assign the complaint to someone and to record and analyze the solution when the problem is resolved. 

You can get started with a free demo here to check out the features for yourself

Screenshot of Issuetrak website page with headline that says 'Software to support you and your users" and features that include notifications, automation tools, dashboards, and task manager

Step 3 – Assign Someone to Resolve the Complaint 

The next thing you should do is decide who will resolve the complaint. 

There’s a chance that if you’re a solopreneur with few complaints, you can deal with them yourself. In this case, it’s as easy as looking for the right solution and updating your customer on what you want to do. 

If you’re part of a bigger team, things are a bit more complicated. 

It’s a good idea to have one person dedicated to customer service, even if that’s just a VA that you hire part-time. Whoever it is, they need to know the procedure you’ve decided for resolving complaints.  

The goal of this step is to make sure everyone in your team who deals with customer complaints is coordinated and gives the same advice. If you use Issuetrak, you can actually keep everyone connected and share notes. 

Just keep in mind that the fewer people you transfer your customer to, the better. If they need specialist help, then obviously, getting them to an expert right away is the best solution. But if not, transferring them too often will just frustrate them and make them angry. 

Step 4 – Solve the Problem 

Now it’s time for the hard part: resolving the complaint. 

Some problems will be easier than others. If your customer has a technical issue, it could be as simple as walking them through the fix on the phone. If the product or service is faulty, refund them or replace it. 

How you resolve the problem will depend on what it is and what you can do – but the solution should be above and beyond. It’s also a good idea to offer them the chance to speak to someone in person because this shows that you’re a brand that values human contact. This will make your customer feel important, and will probably make it easier, and faster, to support them. 

Even if the customer has complained, a good resolution can lead to them becoming a big advocate for your brand and a loyal customer. If something is broken, or even if they don’t like it, offer them a refund. It’s cheaper than dealing with the ramifications of a bad review. 

Whatever the solution, the customer should walk away feeling supported, validated, and excited to buy from you again. 

Step 5 – Offer Compensation 

You already know that refunding a customer for a broken or faulty product is a good idea. 

But, giving EVERY customer some type of compensation is a great way to improve your reputation, and turn angry customers into loyal ones. Instead of remembering their complaint, they’ll leave the situation remembering you as the brand who gave them something free. 

This includes giving them something extra after the problem is solved, to thank them for their patience, and for buying from you in the first place. 

There are plenty of gifts you can give—you can offer a partial refund, a discount on their next purchase, or some free samples. Think about what you can afford to spare and what works for your business. 

No matter how small, a gesture like this won’t go unnoticed. It’s worth remembering that customers are more likely to leave reviews when they are angry, so if you can turn a negative experience into a positive one, it can have a huge impact on your brand. 

Whatever compensation you decide to give, follow it up with a message thanking your customer for their patience and patronage, and try to make sure you end the process on a positive note. 

Screenshot of a tweet thanking Tony Robbins' team for making up for a poor customer experience and an image showing that Team Tony Robbins offered the user $50 off any Tony product

Step 6 – Follow Up With the Customer 

The last thing you should do is follow up with your customer at a later date.

By following up, you show your customer that you truly care and that you value their loyalty. Send them an email asking for a review of your service, and check in to see if they are still having any issues or if there’s anything else you can do to help them. 

This is also a chance for you to get some feedback to improve both your customer service procedure and your business as a whole. 

Screenshot of an Apple form that asks, "Overall, how satisfied were you with your recent Apple Support experience?" and options to answer Very satisfied, Somewhat satisfied, or Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied

Next Steps 

Dealing with customer complaints seems scary, but if you get it right, you can use it to boost your reputation and build a better business. Everyone makes mistakes, and if you can prove to your customers you’re willing to acknowledge and fix yours, they won’t forget it. 

And even if you have made mistakes in the past, and customers have left bad reviews, there’s still time to fix that. Reputation management services can keep the conversation about you positive, help you remove bad reviews online, and keep an eye out for future mentions of you on social media.

Check out our recommendations for the best online reputation management services here

Make your website better. Instantly.

Over 300,000 websites use Crazy Egg to improve what's working, fix what isn't and test new ideas.

Free 30-day Trial