In Shift we pride ourselves on  providing excellent customer service.  Our motto is simple but effective – we want to leave the customer in a better mood than how we found them.

But . ..

But sometimes as humans we make mistakes and sometimes as humans we like to complain.  And this can cause some emotional ripples in your team if you are not careful.  You see, one of the commonest problems I see in my team is the not the actual complaint itself . . . but the feelings the complaint induces.

If one of the team members has made a mistake this can cause them to waste emotional energy on beating themselves up about it.  Also if someone complains against us – and it’s obviously a totally irrational complaint –  we can still feel hurt and upset.  We have a tendency to take the complaint personally, as if ‘we have done something wrong’.  Our feelings around the complaint range from anger, frustration, anxiety, tears and panic.  Believing as I do that the world is the perfect mirror for our projections, often the complaint taps into our buried insecurities from childhood – we’re not good enough, we’ve been caught out etc etc.

So with this in mind, I thought I would share our 7 point plan for handling customer complaints:

1.  Separate Yourself From The Complaint

It’s hard not to take it personally but often the complaint says more about the client more than it does about you!


2. Figure Out What The Complaint Is

If you receive pages and pages of information from your customers about why they are not happy with you and what you have done wrong, read through them and try to get to the heart of their problem.


3.  Don’t Answer Straight Away!

When you do receive a long-winded tirade from a customer, remember to take a step back and realize it’s not all about you! Sometimes their demands are overly emotional or blatantly excessive.  These are the times you should advise your team to sit on the response for a day or two before replying.  This way you take the heat out of your response.

Get two people on your team to review the response before sending so it doesn’t contain anything inflammatory.  Remember, you do not want to inflame this conversation by defending why you are right and they are wrong.  Like a bouncer at a night club, you want to calmly diffuse the situation and strip it of all emotion.  Give them nothing to fight back with and respond purely to the problem alone.


4.  What Does The Customer Need?

Before you respond, brainstorm ways of how you can respond to their needs.  If you know you’re in the wrong, i,e, messed up their payments or not send them their product on time, think about what you can offer them to make up for it.

It’s surprising though because often times a person just needs to feel listened to so they can let go of what they think was a problem.  So either call them yourself or find the most patient person on your team who can call them and simply listen to where they’re at and send them lots of love. You can transform complaints into miracles this way!


5.  Write Down What You Want To Say Before Calling

It’s much easier to make those difficult phone calls when you’re prepared for them.  If you’re making the call yourself write down everything you want to say. If one of your team members is making the call, make sure they are confident and have all the information they need.  Remember to tell them to stay calm and listen with love.


6.  Put It In Writing

After a phone call it’s always advisable to put a record of what happened either in their client file (if you have a client management system) and /or send them an email of what you covered.  This way if the client ever raises the issue again you are properly covered.  Overall at this point, you want to put something in writing to indicate the customer is happy with the solution and again this is another opportunity to send them lots of love.


7.  Don’t Waste Your Energy

A complaint is not there to get riled up over, to take personally or to spend hours trying to prove why they are wrong and you are right.  Similarly if you know you have made a mistake, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it.  Apologise, make up for it and move on.

Overall, complaints are all learning experiences. But they’re also opportunities to review your customer relationships, give someone some much needed love and provide you or your team member with the opportunity to grow.  Make it a challenge to transform complaints into miracles and you’ll be surprised at how your biggest enemies become your greatest fans.


2 Responses to “Customer Service Tips: How to Handle Customer Complaints!”

  1. Great advice Joanna, Some of my best long term client relationships have blossomed as a result of an initial complaint. It gives you the opportunity to reset a relationship and move on with clearly defined boundaries.

  2. Excellent post Joanna. This applies to every industry too so there’s something we can all learn from.

    It’s really hard when you’re on the receiving end of a customer’s complaint to actually take that step back and avoid getting defensive but if you can handle the situation then yes, you can turn them into a great asset for your business.

    The ones who complain can be the ones who also end up shouting loudest in favour of your business. What we need to look out for is the ones who just complain and spend the bare minimum. Really comes down to the 80/20 rule.


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