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How to Handle Consumer Complaints


Customer loyalty can be elusive, but it is imperative to running a successful business. In today’s hyper-digital world, there are myriad online forums that welcome venting and complaining. With the click of a button, an unhappy client could send your company or its sales into a tailspin. “Don’t underestimate the power of a disgruntled customer,” says Rebecca Morgan, an executive advisor and customer-service expert who authored Calming Upset Customers. “They wreak havoc in your organization because [complaints] upset everybody and, with these tools of Twitter and Facebook and Yelp, they can get the word out quickly.”

In truth, the customer isn’t always right, and it’s tempting to engage in heated arguments, especially when it comes to defending your business, employees, and even yourself. But if customer retention is the end goal, listening intently and sticking with a calm, collected approach will help troubleshoot even the toughest complaint. Customer feedback is a “gift,” says Ann Thomas, a senior consultant at Performance Research Associates, a consulting firm in South Bloomington, Minnesota, that deals with customer service-related issues. “I can’t fix the problem unless I know about it.”

How should you proceed once a complaint is brought to your attention depends largely on the nature of the customer’s complaint – and the severity with which it is brought.

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Why Customer Complaints Are Good For Your Business

In today’s Internet-driven world, customers have more power than ever. A satisfied customer may share their good experience with three friends, whereas an angry customer has the potential to tell 3,000 friends in social networks and communities.  And for each customer that complains, there are anywhere from tens to thousands of people that don’t complain – And they simply stop doing business with you.


Research has shown that customers with issues that are resolved quickly can often turn into loyal customers and even brand advocates. Simply put, a customer complaint can become very profitable when you can resolve their problem.

A customer complaint highlights problems with employees or internal processes and you can fix them before further problems arise and cause a bad customer experience. One of the advantages of CRM is that you can keep a record of customer feedback, both positive and negative.

  • You can use positive feedback to provide social proofing and attract new customers
  • You can use negative feedback to fix any internal processes and make your customers happy

Complaint Analysis

Your company will hear about a complaint either from the customer directly, in written or verbal communication or by leaving your brand to shop with a competitor due a negative experience.

A 2010 Customer Experience Report by RightNow found that the number one reason customers leave a brand to use a competitor was not due to pricing or faster service,

In order to analyze the complaint thoroughly, you need to review a number of factors, such as who the complaint came from and how often this customer complains. You can then analyze how often this complaint occurs and then take the necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again.

When it comes to dealing with complaints, you need to consider your organizations service, quality, communication and response time. Look at the cost, billing issues and if problems are regularly followed up. Launching customer service software can help you avoid any future complaints.

In order to manage complaints effectively, you can take a complaint analysis approach. This means asking your self the following questions:

  • Has this happened before?
  • Have the complaints been recorded into your customer service system?
  • How often does the same compliant arise?
  • Is there a pattern to this complaint in how it was received?
  • Has the same customer reported this previously?