How to Handle Customer Complaints About Your Local Business

Customers’ complaints are for real in running any business. When receiving negative feedback can be unpleasant, it is essential to make noticeable improvements and hold onto customers. 

How can you mitigate the sting when people take time out of their day to complain about your product or services? 

Acknowledge them! 

When the customer feels heard, more than likely, they will go away happy- even if not satisfied with what was done in response. 

It is suggested that your customer may even have a more positive perspective of your business after a complaint is resolved than before they even had an issue.

What Are Customer Complaints?

In any business, customers can be inevitably disappointed with the product or service delivered, even if it matches your expectations. That can lead to customer complaints and unhappy customers overall.

Customer complaints demonstrate a mismatch between the product or service delivered and the customer’s initial expectations. 

And when complaints are one-off occurrences or mistakes, they can be interpreted as negative feedback. As a result, the relationship between the business and the customer can usually be salvaged. However, when they are consistent trends, they need to be resolved at a more fundamental level.

This conflict between the expectations and results can be associated with several different reasons: 

  •      Unreasonable expectations that are hard to meet. In most cases, customers have a long list of demands. Handling complaints are a difficult part for any business. They may have unreasonable expectations such as pricing, the level of service, or misunderstanding the product’s purpose. 
  •     Scenarios beyond your control.  Sometimes things go wrong, and they have nothing to do with your business or its offering. 
  •      Misleading marketing around the business’s offering. Businesses can sometimes misrepresent their products or services through their marketing and social media campaigns. And customers may feel that they have invested in an offer but are still unable to meet the expectation.
  •     Operational failures. Sometimes businesses may have a great product or service but fall when it comes to fulfillment. This can happen when companies don’t fully train employees.

Where Are Customers Most Likely to Complain? 

Depending on your business model and location, customers may have multiple options for lodging a complaint. In addition, customer feedback can appear in two different ways, public and private. 

Naturally, if you’re providing channels for private negative feedback, you are inclined to be able to handle these issues outside of the public eye. 

Here are some of the top ways customers usually choose to complain: 

  •      Frontline staff.  If you own a customer-facing business, your customers may be more likely to complain in-person to a staff member who is on duty.
  •      Surveys. If you send out routine customer satisfaction surveys, they may use it as an opportunity to share complaints about your business or offers.
  •      Online reviews. In other scenarios, unsatisfied customers will use 3rd party review sites for complaining about your business. If you do receive negative online reviews, remember it is essential to acknowledge the feedback and be empathetic.
  •      By phone or email. Businesses that have a more personalized service to a smaller group of customers and may receive more complaints, whether directly to their phone lines or through email.
  •      Social Media. It is common for customers to leave comments and reviews on businesses’ social media profiles. It is critical to have a policy in place because social media platforms can be very public.

What Do Customers Typically Complain About? 

Regardless of industry, businesses will be met with some form of customer complaint at one point or another. However, specific scenarios tend to provoke complaints the most, whether it’s a result of your mistake or due to something they felt was impossible for your customers to bear.

Being knowledgeable on what your customers typically complain about will help you improve your business’s offering and assist your employees in preparing for handling common complaints.

Do you want to save time and make your customers happy? Then, do not hesitate to collect feedback. It takes just a little bit of work every day to avoid confusion or conflict for both the customer and business owner.

Here are some areas that customers typically complain about and plausible solutions to those complaints.

Slow Customer Service 

Whether you run a restaurant or plumbing business, customers most often appreciate appropriate customer service. Customers feel that their time is respected. In most cases, they don’t want to waste any of it waiting in line while talking on the phone with your company’s team.

Why long time waiting? Long time waiting mean that your business does not prioritize customer experience and may not deal with customers efficiently.

Here are some of the suggestions: 

  • Training! Encouraging your staff to learn how to communicate with customers.
  • Improve your operations! This encompasses adjusting processes, adding staff, and being aware of inventory or signage are some effective ways to pre-emptively address potential bottlenecks.

 Out of Stock Inventory or Unavailable Services

In the world of marketing, an out-of-stock product or fully booked service is better than a sold one. Your business must be doing something right if customers are willing to wait for you without purchasing what they want from your store. 

However, obsolete inventory and no available services can make potential clients lose interest in your company quickly, so these items must stay on hand at all times.

Beware that customers can keep calling and emailing your business for updates about these inaccessible services and products. 

Ultimately, they may leave you negative feedback either online or in person. 

Here’s what to do: 

  •  Training your staff to learn how to communicate empathetically with customers for the inconvenience can be a good start.
  •  Setting realistic expectations by communicating when it is feasible to deliver these products or services is ideal.

Low-Quality or Defective Products or Service

Generally, people are disappointed after buying a product that breaks shortly afterward. When this happens, customers will inevitably complain about it.

When customers lodge a legitimate complaint and do not receive any appropriate solution, they may be frustrated and lodge a second complaint. 

Here’s what to do: 

  •  Apologize for the slow response. Also, explain that the team recognizes the problem, searching for a suitable solution. 
  • Communicate the expected timeline for follow-up communication and the final resolution. And learn to follow it!

No Follow-up

Even if you have the best intentions of resolving a customer’s issue, they may feel anxious about your progress and want to know how it is going.

If clients need help with time-sensitive requests or complaints, then they’ll be looking for updates on what information you’re able to find.

It’s essential to be upfront about expected response times and stick to them. In this way, you can give all customers the best service possible without disappointing some people because their expectations are too high.

Here are a few follow-up best practices:

  •  It is alright not to have the solution right away. Besides, it’s a good idea to communicate with the customer that you are actively solving the issue. 
  •  Set customer expectations to provide solutions within a feasible timeline. If you know that it will take a few days to resolve the problem, it is safe to don’t promise a solution for the following day. 
  •  Consider the channel through which the customer made the complaint. Also, consider the acceptable response time. A 24-hour is acceptable for a negative online review or an email, but a few hours or less is generally expected for an in-person or phone complaint
  •  If a complaint is time-sensitive, ensure the expectation of the customers by providing regular updates.

How Should Local Businesses Handle Complaints?

Your business will be able to turn complaining customers into loyal advocates if you are aware of the issue and resolve it, as well as effectively communicate throughout. This is a great way for both sides to win!

1. Make it Easy for Customers to Complain

Customers will be unhappy to go through the hassle of complaining when they know that their feedback is only going to be met with a formality.

To help create a solid customer experience, customers need to feel that the business cares about their thoughts. When customers complain, it should be easy for them to share their honest opinions and thoughts with a business. 

You could encourage customers to share their thoughts by:

  •  Placing a form on your website that encourages the clients to write down their feedback and complaints.
  •  Posting a feedback link in your newsletter, social media platforms, and in-store can help to capture the client’s evaluation.
  •  Asking your customers for their opinions.

Proactively asking your customers for their honest feedback is a great way of preventing complaints from escalating. In addition, sending out customer satisfaction surveys at regular intervals helps you gauge how they feel about your business. Remember, it is pertinent that problems need to be addressed right away before it gets too late!

It can be used as an opportunity to discover valuable insights like what may not work for your business. 

What do you do when customers complain? You can ask valid questions to dig deeper into what caused the issue in the first place. 

When a customer places a complaint, consider asking the following questions:

? Could you elaborate more on that point? 

? Could you explain what you mean by that?

? Will you help me understand how we can meet your expectations?

Here is the point— although customer complaints are inconvenient, it is important to take also a good time for some self-reflection. 

Ask yourself:

? Do I need any further details? 

? Why is this complaint significant for my business? 

? What happened to cause the customer to complain?

? How can we prevent this from recurring?

Asking the right questions will help you uncover the root of a problem so that it can be resolved. Depending on how your business is structured, you may choose to assign one team member as a customer complaint specialist who handles complaints and uncovers insights about what needs improvement for customers to have an even better experience with your company.

3. Respond Proactively and Efficiently

Good responses depend on the nature of the complaint.

Here are some complaint response time best practices: 

  •  Respond promptly. Negative feedback requires a swift reply and resolution to show care and action from your business.
  •   If the feedback is public, respond publicly. It’s an opportunity to show future customers you’re responsive, capable, and willing to right a wrong.
  •   Read through the complaint thoroughly. Use the customer’s own words to personalize your reply. This goes a long way to display empathy!
  • Offer a solution.  Showing empathy for the situation and being respectful is vital to successful response management, but a solution is at the customer’s core. It provides a solution that is appropriate to the complaint, whether compensation, a refund or replacement. 
  • Put the right person in charge. Make sure that the person replying to negative reviews has the authority to offer solutions.

Taking time to monitor your customer complaints regularly is vital to ensure you don’t miss one. 

4. Follow up to Verify You’ve Solved Their Problem with a Suitable Solution

When you’ve found the cause of a customer complaint, identified an appropriate solution, and proposed it to them, don’t forget about follow-ups. It can be challenging for customers to let go, so make sure they feel heard by following up on your proposal to see if their problem has been addressed or not.

Customers appreciate businesses that care about their experience and their overall satisfaction. 

You can then follow up with customers by: 

  • Asking them if there’s anything else you can do to help them.
  • Simply asking if the solution worked out for them. 

5. Record the Complaint and Analyze Patterns

When you receive a complaint, it’s crucial to record the type of complaint and whom it came from. 

The complaint could come from: 

  • A regular customer 
  • A one-off customer
  • A high-value customer 

If you receive multiple complaints about the same issue from a similar customer point, you can identify trends in your operations!

It’s essential to identify high-volume complaints as these can point to dominant issues throughout your business. 

Identifying repeated complaints and taking steps to address the root cause will make it easier to prevent future complaints! 

Here’s How You Can Support Your Employees to Handle Customer Complaints Properly? 

Business managers should provide employees with the proper training to help them resolve customer complaints promptly.

Clear guidance and policies will help ensure that each customer complaint gets a standardized level of attention from staff members while those complaints are appropriately recorded.

Create a Clear Written Complaint Handling Document

Writing a guide to handling customer complaints professionally and effectively is a good idea. This document should be comprehensive, so employees know how to deal with different situations as they come up, both on the job training-wise and in a pinch when no one else is around for guidance.

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re consistently collecting feedback, you should be familiar with common customer complaints and have a specific way for your employees to handle them. That way, employees will understand what’s expected of them as complaints arise. 

Try to guide how they should react, escalate the complaint, and provide possible solutions.  

To avoid complaints, make sure your complaint handling document is easily accessible to all staff members. After reading the document, you should feel confident in making judgment calls and tackling different situations independently.

Give Your Staff Resources to Resolve Complaints

If you want to make your employees feel confident in handling complaints, consider providing interactive training sessions. For example, you could include role-playing situations where we show them the potential set of customer problems that can occur and force trainees to come up with solutions on their own.

Re-evaluate How Your Business Handles Complaints Routinely

Handling customers’ complaints can be one of the more challenging aspects of working in a customer-facing role. It’s essential for employees to feel well-equipped when handling these cases, so managers must check on their staff quarterly and provide high-quality training sessions.

Final Thoughts On Customer Complaints

Complaints are inevitable when running any business. However, complaints can be the source to provide helpful information about where improvements need to be made. This will ultimately benefit customers!

Is customer support is a big part of your businesses’ marketing? Absolutely! It tells a story of how your business values your customer’s sentiment. Take it seriously!

It is vital to make an effort to work on the issues that customers complain about. In addition, you need to proactively improve how your business deals with negative feedback. You might want to try implementing a few of our suggestions for handling complaints. And see if you can retain more loyal customers.