A Guide for Managing Customer Complaints

While good organizations do their best to keep their clientele happy at all times, even the most highly regarded companies are bound to experience a customer complaint every once in a while. Therefore, it’s important for all businesses to know how to prepare for a negative customer reaction, should the situation arise.

The manner in which companies handle criticism directly affects the survival of your business. In fact, teaching your employees how to properly deal with an unhappy client should be of paramount value in your organization.

Managing Customer Reviews - survey graphic


Here, we discuss some guidelines to help businesses effectively and gracefully handle an unsatisfied customer.

Dealing With General Customer Complaints

1.  Pay attention

According to Matthew Swyers, business writer and founder of the web-based law firm, The Trademark Company, it’s important to listen first and to understand the customer’s point of view. Resist the temptation to react in quick defense. “They are concerned about an aspect of your services”, says Swyers. “Take the time to listen and truly understand what is driving their concern.”

2.  Have empathy

To create a bond between yourself and the customer, be sure to empathize with where they are coming from on the issue. This way, the customer will have confidence in the fact that you are taking their concern seriously and are willing to work with them in order to resolve the problem.

3.  Propose a solution

“[A]lways focus on what you can do as opposed to what you cannot,” advises Swyers. A solution can always be found. While it may not always be exactly what the customer has in mind, showing that you are willing to offer a set of options may help diffuse the situation and open the lines of communication. This should ultimately lead to a successful resolution.

4.  Be sure to follow up

According to Swyers, “Once you have gone through the [above] steps, make sure to follow up with [the customer] to make sure that they are satisfied with the solution and that you have taken care of their concern”. This shows due-diligence on your behalf, and a formerly unsatisfied customer will now see that they are a valued asset to your company.

Managing Negative Web Feedback

1.  The new normal

It is safe say that the web is the new “word of mouth” when it comes to marketing and advertising. YelpHealthgradesAngie’s List, and Google Places have become the go-to sites for shared experiences with organizations of all kinds. Whether your reviews are positive, negative or somewhere in the middle, they are on display for the world to see. Fortunately or unfortunately, company reputations can be made or damaged via the online community.

2.  Find common sequences

Digital Marketer, SEO expert, and business author, Pratik Dholakiva advises companies, “…don’t be too hard on yourself for getting a negative review if it’s a rare experience”. He continues, “You can’t please everybody, and not everyone is going to love every aspect of your business”.

Dholakiva goes on to say that it’s essential to remember that not all customer feedback is always going to be beneficial to the well-being of your organization. While it’s important to recognize your feedback, “taking each and every review into deep consideration can actually harm your product or service”. What is important, however, is to begin identifying common or repetitive themes. Once you’ve spotted a familiar thread, you will be able to isolate what can be done to correct the problems.

3.  Offer a prompt response

Transparency is a key component when it comes to responding to web-based complaints. Dholakiva reminds companies not to let frustration and anger take over when reading through any negative online reviews. Keep a cool head, apologize if necessary for their experience, and consider offering a special deal of some kind, if applicable. “Responding to negative reviews will not only work to appease a disgruntled customer; it may help grow your business and present it in a new light,” says Dholakiva.

4.  Make necessary changes

Reviewing and responding to negative reviews is really only a portion of the equation. If you’ve noticed a significant increase in negative feedback regarding a specific aspect of your business, it’s time to take the appropriate action to facilitate the right types of changes. Take the customer experience into consideration and tweak your business model accordingly, if need be.

Further Web Considerations

1.  Company legal rights

While the majority of online reviews are sincere and legitimate, there are always those individuals who may take things just a trace too far. Every once in a while, a customer may post a review out of anger over a situation that the company had little to no control over, or perhaps a misunderstanding of policies led to an unfounded, albeit irate response. Yet, in cases of seemingly defaming reviews, what can a company really do?

According to entrepreneur, small business expert, and professional speaker, Nellie Akalp, “Most reviews are protected under the First Amendment (free speech). However, a court can find a reviewer guilty of defaming a business if they post factually incorrect accusations. Freedom of speech typically boils down to whether someone is expressing their opinion or asserting a fact.”

For example, if a customer states that he or she disliked you or your business practices, there really isn’t much you can do. On the other hand, if a customer posts false accusations, such as claiming you are unlicensed or partook in an unethical business practice, you may actually be able to build a case for lawsuit. As Akalp states, “A false statement of fact that hurts your business is not protected by the right to free speech”.

However, companies should know that the review websites themselves cannot be held responsible for third party opinions posted by their users. While they are not obligated to do so, one option is to request that the website review the defaming post for possible removal. “Perhaps the best way to combat it directly is through a gracious response,” says Akalp. “Just as with any customer service, offer a speedy solution and remember that ‘the customer is always right’.”

2.  Advice for disgruntled customers

It is important for online reviewers to keep in mind the difference between sharing an opinion and slanderous defamation when composing a review. “It’s important to choose your words carefully before bashing a business on a review site. Stick to opinions and truths,” says Akalp.

Managing Customer Reviews - world wide web_globe



The best advice we can offer organizations of all kinds is to continue to make customer satisfaction their main priority, maintain transparency, offer options, and never hesitate to ask for a review.


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200