Tips for Handling Customer Complaints Better

Handling customer complaints is an unpleasant, difficult and unavoidable part of business. If you work in any kind of customer relations department, be it sales, support or customer service, you’re going to receive these customer complaints, and you’re going to have to act on them in one way or another. Even inaction is itself an action via decision to not take action.

So, are there ways to make handling customer complaints more effective, less stressful and more productive? The short answer to this is yes, but the longer, more interesting answer is that it can be made to work better, but removing the stressfulness of this particular thing completely is not going to ever be possible, sadly.

The first thing to do is to make it easier to handle taking them in. Going multi channel here is going to be the best way to make this better. See, if you allow for multiple ways to send them, such as simple submission of general complaints (not requiring direct response), as well as a varying set of levels of interactivity with people to submit complaints which require acknowledgement, you’re making the complaints able to be more rational.

See, when users have to go through great lengths and irritations in order to submit their complaint, they will be increasingly agitated along the way, skewing their opinions, and how rational they are as well. Irrational, hostile complaints help nobody, so finding ways to abate the frustration factor on the way in, as well as making it easier for a large amount of people to get their say in is going to help things a heck of a lot.

Now, as for actually handling the complaints in and of itself, that’s more of a human game than a logic one. Empathy is important, especially considering the skew of logic and rationality which the frustration can bring about, like we said before. Being understanding that the user is annoyed, further annoyed by what they had to do to convey their annoyance is extremely helpful.

Along with this, indicating you are making notes of the complaint, and thinking out loud about the priority of what the user is saying, shows that you are working on a report of the complaint to be legitimately handed to those who actually can act on the complaints.

If the user sees, or rather hears you making note of this, then it cements to them that their complaint is being taken seriously, and will be conveyed to people who can potentially do something about it.

At the very least, if it’s a complaint they know can’t be solved or is unlikely to be solved, you’ve at least helped them obtain some sense of base vindication if nothing else. Sometimes, that’s all there can be done with customer complaints.

So, with it being a game of balance between satisfying users’ needs for vindication, as well as actually cordially taking in constructive user input, handling customer complaints is a very tricky but very important part of your business. Of a quick note is that it’s good to encourage complaints that are civil and realistic, but it’s also good to encourage input from users when they’re happy with what they get, as well.


is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe