How to Resolve Customer Complaints in Your Small Business » Succeed As Your Own Boss

Research shows that when you answer a customer’s complaint, that customer’s advocacy for the business increases by up to 30%. And if you can actually solve their problem, they remain a customer 70% of the time. Conversely, if you do not answer a customer complaint, the decrease in advocacy is as much as 50%. Not acknowledging dissatisfied customers makes a bad situation worse, every time. So, answer every complaint, in any channel where it is shared, every time.

Managing unhappy customers is an unfortunate aspect of running any small business. No matter what you do, every small business owner will eventually face complaints, whether it’s because of product, service, price, delivery, or something else. Because it’s inevitable, learning how to resolve customer complaints early on in your business is essential for success. This article will explain how to resolve customer complaints using a simple 5-step method.

How to Resolve Customer Complaints in 5 Steps

Resolving customer complaints is essential for your growing small business. Although you might want to tell the unhappy customer to take a hike, that strategy will only damage your reputation and invite negative online reviews. 

how to resolve customer complaints

One unhappy customer who is particularly vocal can impact the decisions of many potential customers in the future, so you must diffuse the situation and send them away on a positive note. Let’s discuss how to resolve customer complaints in 5 simple steps.

1. Listen Carefully

The first step in how to resolve customer complaints is to simply listen. When a customer has had a bad experience, they want to be heard and understood. They feel that they’ve been wronged, and they need to vent about it! Avoid the temptation to react right away. Don’t interrupt them. Instead, force yourself to listen, making notes of the key facts about their complaint.

2. Show Empathy

While listening, it’s essential to show empathy for what they are saying. Even if you disagree with their comments, try to understand how they may be feeling at this moment in time. Remain calm and in control of your emotions. Remember your facial expressions too. You may nod in an understanding manner to let them know you are listening and interested in what they say. When you speak, respond in a supportive and concerned manner, for example, “I can see how this has been frustrating.” A statement like that demonstrates respect for their feelings while not necessarily agreeing with their complaint about your business.

show empathy

3. Thank Them and Apologize

Although you may be tempted to jump into reaction mode or solution mode, one of the fundamental principles of how to resolve customer complaints is to first respond to what they have told you. Although it may sound odd, the best way to start is by thanking them for complaining. Not that you are happy to get a complaint, of course! But it’s always good when potential problems are brought to your attention so you can fix them. Thanking them shows you genuinely appreciate that they have shared their feedback with you.

Next, offer an apology…even if you are not the cause of the problem. Sometimes, a customer will complain when they actually made the error themselves. But you can always apologize for the fact that they are upset about the situation. Plus, the apology signals to the customer that you will take ownership of the problem and help them with a resolution.

4. Ask Questions to Get the Facts

An unhappy customer will often start on an emotional tirade about what happened and how it made them feel. Once the emotions are out of the way, you can deal with the facts of the matter. You have already listened intently as they vented, thanked them, and offered an apology. This should diffuse the situation quite a bit, and now you can dig into the objective facts about what has happened. Clarify any details that you don’t understand and ask additional questions that will help you get the complete picture of what happened. 

ask questions

Asking questions is often the way to find a resolution too. For example, you might say, “I understand that you’re unhappy about the product you received. Is there anything we can do to fix this for you?” Questions like this put the ball back in your customer’s court, so they can explain what they need from you to rectify the situation. 

5. Present a Solution

Now that you’ve identified the facts and the root cause of the complaint, the final step in how to resolve customer complaints is to present a solution. If you followed the steps above, you might have feedback from the customer on the best way to resolve the problem. If not, you have enough information about what happened to propose a potential solution. Here are some tips on presenting a solution:

  • Act Quickly: Don’t make the customer wait for the resolution. Have a plan for handling complaints and empower your employees to resolve issues up to $500 (or whatever amount you feel comfortable with) without calling the manager for approval.
  • Go Above and Beyond: If you want to turn an unhappy customer into a loyal customer who will rave about your business, then don’t just solve the problem—give them more than what they asked for. For example, you may refund their money and offer free coupons for their next visit.
  • Stay Positive: Stay pleasant and keep smiling. Express gratitude for their business. End with something like, “Please let me know if there is anything else I can do. We’re happy to help!”
  • Reach Out If Needed: In some cases, it may be worth reaching back out to the customer a few days later to check in with them and make sure that the problem has been resolved.

Wrap Up: How to Resolve Customer Complaints

The next time you encounter an unhappy customer in your small business, follow the 5-step method above for how to resolve customer complaints, and you are sure to see good results. And remember—honest feedback is a gift! Although an unhappy customer may exaggerate emotions or even use abusive language to get their point across, what they say gives you insight into your business. Learning about potential problems can help you provide a better customer experience to everyone who does business with you.

resolve customer complaints

In the end, learning how to resolve customer complaints will make your business stronger. When customer happiness is your top priority, customers (even those who had a bad experience) will come back again.

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