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Running a successful business with a large customer base is fantastic. But it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, no matter the size, nature, or success of your business.
It’s commonplace for customers to leave feedback throughout your entire business journey, and not all of that feedback will be positive. The good news is that it doesn’t always have to be difficult to respond to these complaints.
Whether you view customer complaints in a negative or positive light, feedback will help you grow your business. Here are some ways to respond to customer complaints without damaging your reputation any further.
The Top Online Reputation Management Companies to Respond to Customer Complaints
If you need help with managing your business reputation and want to learn how to respond to customer complaints effectively, here are the best options:
- WebiMax — Best overall
- NetReputation – Best for ultra-responsive customer support
- InternetReputation.com – Best for personal reputation management
- Reputation Defense Network — Best for permanently removing false content
- Podium — Best for getting reviews automatically
- SEO Image — Best for legal and medical practices
- Gadook — Best for rebranding after reputation attacks
- BirdEye — Best for getting Google and Facebook reviews
- Reputation.com — Best for knowing your competition’s reputation
- Go Fish Digital — Best for improving Yelp reviews
- Netmark.com — Best for hands-off, fast responses to reputation hits
You can read our full reviews of each online reputation management company here.
7 Steps to Respond to Customer Complaints
Responding to customer complaints doesn’t just mean apologizing and logging off for the day. Here are seven crucial steps to help you respond without further damaging your reputation:
- Listen to the customer’s complaint
- Identify the type of customer you are dealing with
- Respond quickly
- Apologize and thank the customer
- Present a solution
- Log the complaint
- Incorporate changes using customer feedback
The Easy Parts of Responding to Customer Complaints
You may already be aware that receiving customer complaints is one of the easiest parts of running a business due to advances in technology, as many people use customer service portals. But what most people don’t realize is how easy it is to protect your reputation online.
Protecting and improving your online reputation has never been easier with online reputation management companies. WebiMax is a leading digital marketing agency that specializes in reputation management for small businesses.
The best part about WebiMax is that it is customizable to your needs, and its system evolves with Google’s everchanging algorithm. Working under a non-disclosure agreement, WebiMax ensures that all crisis management and positive branding are discreet.
Whether you need help to improve your positive branding or an expert to monitor and manage your brand 24/7, WebiMax can do all the hard work for you as you continue to improve your business strategy and receive fewer complaints.
The Difficult Parts of Responding to Customer Complaints
Customer complaints can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you feel like you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s important to keep calm, stay professional, and avoid doing or saying something that you’re going to regret.
One of the most difficult aspects of customer complaints is not knowing what to say in response. Miscommunication is common via text and email, so it’s important to take a brief moment to process the complaint before responding.
If you’re speaking to a customer in person or over the phone, make sure you properly articulate yourself. Pay close attention to your tone and facial expressions as well.
Miscommunication certainly goes both ways, and sometimes customers can come across as more aggressive than they intend to be.
Coming up with a resolution that keeps your customers happy can also be a challenge. You’re always going to have a handful of customers who can’t be pleased—even if you’re going above and beyond to rectify the complaint.
But responding effectively doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you follow the steps below:
Step 1: Listen to the Customer’s Complaint
Before you even begin to form a response in your head, type it out, or reach for your phone, you need to listen to the customer’s complaint and understand it to the best of your ability. Taking a moment to process the complaint by truly understanding your customer will help you get to the root of the problem quickly and allow you to handle the complaint appropriately.
After processing the complaint, you need to determine what the customer is trying to tell you. To do this efficiently, you should do two things:
- Identify the reason why your customer is dissatisfied
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes
Identifying why your customer is complaining will help you get to the root of the problem while putting yourself in your customer’s shoes helps create an empathetic environment before responding.
Step 2: Identify the Type of Customer You Are Dealing With
You shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all response for everyone. Instead, your response should be based on the type of customer you are dealing with.
Generally, there are three different types of customers—and each requires a different approach.
Aggressive customers usually aren’t afraid to tell you when they are upset, even if the complaint seems minor.
You should always respond with firm politeness when you’re dealing with aggression. Don’t escalate the situation and let things get out of control. Do whatever you can to diffuse the customer’s anger without starting a fight or argument.
Customers who make complaints frequently tend to be the most frustrating. But you still need to stay patient and react calmly.
It’s in your best interest to follow up with these customers and make sure everything is running smoothly on their end. Following up not only shows the customer that you’re proactive and care about fixing the problem, but it also prevents the customer from complaining again in the future about repeat issues.
Loyal customers have been using your services for a long period and paying for premium support. These customers should be a priority when it comes to responding and resolving conflicts.
Giving away a little bit more to these customers to keep them happy is worth it in the long run.
Try to offer a solution quickly and make sure the customer knows you are being proactive about the situation. It’s always a good idea to create a VIP or premium support folder—making it easier to respond to and identify their specific complaints.
Step 3: Respond Quickly
Whether your customer is loyal or not, it’s imperative to promptly respond to all complaints to avoid losing customers or encouraging a bad online reputation.
Address Every Customer Complaint
Even if you can’t resolve an issue swiftly, you should still always address every customer in a caring way. If it turns out that you can’t solve an issue within the hour, let your customer know this and give them a rough timeframe on when you will be able to solve the issue.
Failing to address your customer’s complaints might lead them to believe that you don’t care enough about the issue, which, in most cases, certainly worsens the situation.
If your business is extremely large or if you spend a lot of time out of the office on service calls, you may have to consider hiring someone who can handle these responses for you. For many companies, the best option is to subscribe to an online reputation service. This service will make sure you stay on top of any negative reviews.
Consider An Automatic Response
You should never sound robotic in your response to customers. However, if you are busy with the day-to-day, you should consider setting up an automatic response message to let your customers know that you will get back to them in a certain amount of time.
Do Not Respond in Frustration
Although it is important to respond as quickly as possible to the negative review or customer complaint, tread carefully here. If you are someone who has a temptation to respond immediately to a snarky, sarcastic customer review with an equal amount of snark on your end, you may want to hold off for a bit.
If needed, give yourself a cooling off period after you first read the negative review. If you are feeling frustrated and having a bad day, don’t respond immediately. After a couple of hours, you may be able to approach your response calmly and in a professional manner that won’t escalate the customer’s frustration and lead to more problems for you.
Step 4: Apologize and Thank the Customer
When the time comes to respond to your customer’s complaint, you should offer an apology and thank the customer for letting you know their feedback.
After apologizing and thanking the customer, try your best to express empathy by explaining your understanding of the situation. If possible, try to recognize what the customer may have lost from experiencing the issue and let them know that you understand this and that it was unacceptable to have happened in the first place.
Avoid Deflecting Blame or Being Passive Aggressive
The most difficult part of dealing with complaints is responding to the customers when you aren’t sure what to say. Because texting comes with a lot of miscommunication and tone issues, it’s imperative that you try your best to avoid deflecting blame or being passive-aggressive in your response.
You don’t have to agree with every single customer, but what you should do is empathize with someone who is sharing their disappointing experience. Avoid responses like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and instead try, “I’m sorry that you have experienced this issue with us. How can we make this better for you?”
When it comes to apologizing to the customer, it’s always best to ask them what they need from you—especially if they haven’t already stated this in their complaint.
Step 5: Present a Solution
Presenting an appropriate solution to the customer is an essential step when responding to a complaint. It allows you to show the customer you are serious about preventing the issue from ever recurring.
Let the Customer Know You Have Identified the Issue
First and foremost, you can only present a solution to an issue you have identified and understood, so you should lead with this in your response.
Explain How You Will Prevent the Issue From Recurring
Sometimes this is not always possible, especially with technical issues, as technology can be unpredictable. However, if it is possible, it’s always a good idea to explain how you will prevent this issue from recurring in the future.
For example, if an issue arises due to slow customer support, you could say: “We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. We are working on hiring a dedicated customer support team to prevent this from happening again.”
Verify That the Problem Has Been Solved
After presenting a solution, verify that the solution has worked for the customer. The last thing you want is recurring complaints, and the best way to avoid this is to verify.
If you can’t verify within the hour, it’s best to follow up with the customer. If you are dealing with a customer through a customer service portal, you should consider monitoring any satisfaction ratings you receive afterward.
Usually, a negative satisfaction rating means that the customer was unhappy with the service, so following up is best in this situation too, as it makes sure you don’t need to address any additional issues.
Step 6: Log the Complaint
It’s not worth logging every complaint you receive, especially if it’s a one-off. But if you receive multiple complaints from different customers about the same issue, logging these will help you resolve issues faster and sometimes prevent them from happening altogether.
Logging the same complaints allows you to track trends and figure out what you should be doing differently to prevent the issue from recurring. Log the complaint, monitor how often you receive similar ones, and reach out to each customer after resolving them is the easiest way to track trends within your business strategy.
Manage High-Volume Complaints with WebiMax
Not only does WebiMax help small businesses manage their reputation, but it also offers a free reputation analysis to get started. The reputation analysis takes an in-depth look into your online presence and forms a report on everything you need to know to turn your reputation around.
You can manage high-volume complaints through WebiMax by investing in its content deletion feature or by simply getting a report on all the negative content that exists online and how long it will take to remove it.
Step 7: Incorporate Changes Using Customer Feedback
After receiving and responding to customer complaints, it’s time to put your words into action. Not every single complaint requires you to change your business strategy, but that’s why you need to monitor your complaints in the first place.
If you receive a high volume of complaints surrounding a similar issue, you need to change something. To figure out if you need to implement a new business strategy, you must listen to your customers, track trends, and draw connections between complaints.
Whether you run a small business or not, you should have a team meeting to discuss any changes in strategy. It’s better to have more people to brainstorm with, especially if you aren’t sure how to incorporate the feedback.
If you are an individual, we would still recommend meeting with a professional in reputation management, or simply investing in an online system like WebiMax, to help you understand what you need to do better.