Kinds of Customer Complaints & How to Respond to Them

First, it’s important to educate your staff into realizing that customer complaints are welcome. They’re welcome because there are many customers who don’t complain to your staff, but rather go home and complain to their friends and family and never return.

Second, it’s important to educate your staff about how to handle complaints. Too many companies have a return policy, but don’t back it up with training, for example, and thus employees are left to fend for themselves when faced with an angry customer. However, as you educate your employees, don’t give them the easiest answer to problems and move on. Invite them to identify all of the complaints they’ve heard from customers and work with them to develop solutions and responses. Put those solutions and responses into a reference binder.

There are 3 kinds of customer complaints. Tell your employee this and help them identify each scenario:

  1. Legitimate complaints that the employee can solve: This one is a “no-brainer”. The employee needs to solve the problem immediately, doing whatever it takes to not only repair the problem, but to repair the relationship. Don’t let your employee settle for just replacing a broken product; do more because the customer took the time to come in. Perhaps refund their full amount of money. Doing “just the bare minimum” will leave you with a customer that is not completely satisfied dealing with your company.
  2. Legitimate complaints that the employee cannot solve: These can take two forms: either a new problem that has occurred that no one was aware of or a problem that you are aware of that is being dealt with.
    If it’s a new problem (like a fault in the product that providing a new product will not solve) then you may need to empower your employee to take the customer to the competition and buy the product from them. Of course this should not be the first or most common response, but you will want to educate your employee and let them know that you are willing to go that far to make sure a customer is happy.
    If it’s a problem that is ongoing in your company, you will want to train your staff in how to respond. One common employee response to customer complaints is “I’m sorry about the wait, we’re so understaffed.” Understaffing is an issue, but the solution isn’t always to hire more people.
    However, your employees may not understand that and thus it becomes a training issue. Don’t let them take a customer complaint as an opening to complain about the business. Instead, empower the employee to make it right with the customer and leave it at that.
  3. Ill-founded complaints: Some content has been written about this idea, but not enough, in my opinion: the reality is that customers are sometimes wrong…or they simply don’t understand how the business works and their reaction is to complain about the issue: price, for example, or quantity, or value, or wait times. Your employees face these complaints on a regular basis and are probably the least equipped to deal with them. However, an incorrect response could make a customer feel stupid and send them off to your competitors.
    To resolve these problems, ask your employees for the most common complaints in which the customer is wrong. Then work to create an environment where those questions don’t come up. It could be as simple as improving signage, proactively walking the client through the process, or offering a brochure that doesn’t market what you do but rather provides a step by step process of how you do it.