June 21, 2023
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Best Way to Respond to Customer Complaints

How to Respond to Customer Complaints: A Complete Guide

Customer complaints are inevitable. But how you handle them can make the difference between losing a customer and turning them into a loyal one. In fact, responding effectively to complaints can even turn unsatisfied customers into opportunities for growth and success.

In this article, we’ll explore some best practices for responding to customer complaints and how to use criticism to your advantage.

Three Most Important Statistical Facts You Should Know

The ratio between reviews of satisfied and unsatisfied customers can vary widely depending on the industry and the specific company. In general, however, studies and eCommerce big data analysis have shown that customers are 5 times more likely to leave reviews when they have had a negative experience than when they have had a positive one

IMG - 1 - Statistical data and facts about Customer Complaints

A survey by BrightLocal marketing company found:

  1. 86% of people read reviews about the business before engaging with it; of those, 57% will only use a business if it has four or more stars. 
  2. 52% of unsatisfied customers leave a review, while only 28% of satisfied ones do.
  3. Consumers are 4.6 times more likely to write a review after a negative experience than a positive one.

There are more studies and latest eCommerce statistical data that show the importance of resolving complaints:

  • A study by ReviewTrackers shows that 52% of customers who had a negative experience with a business share it on social media, compared to only 33% who have had a positive experience.
  • Temkin Group found that customers with a very negative experience with a company are more than three times as likely to tell others about it than shoppers who enjoyed customer experience ecosystem.
  • According to a study by Lee Resources, 26 other unhappy customers remain silent for every customer complaint. However, when a company resolves a complaint in the customer’s favor, 70% of those customers will do business with the company again. The same study says customers who have resolved their complaints are more likely to refer the company to others, resulting in new business and increased revenue. 

The Best Way To Respond To Customer Complaints

Customer complaints are a fact of life for any business. While they can be frustrating to deal with, they also provide growth and improvement opportunities. 

The best way to respond to customer complaints is to:

  • listen carefully to what the customer has to say, 
  • acknowledge their concerns, 
  • work to find a solution that satisfies both parties,
  • incorporate your findings and decisions into your eCommerce growth strategy.
IMG - 2 The best way to respond to Customer Complaints

Here are some ideas what you can offer to unsatisfied customers to appease them and turn them into loyal brand advocates:

  1. Offer a full or partial refund
  2. Provide a discount on their next purchase
  3. Offer a free product or service
  4. Extend their subscription or membership for free
  5. Upgrade their product or service at no additional cost
  6. Provide a personal apology from a senior executive
  7. Assign a dedicated customer service representative to their account
  8. Offer a gift card or voucher for future repeat purchases
  9. Provide expedited shipping or delivery for free
  10. Give them a personalized solution that fits their specific needs.

Respond promptly and respectfully to criticism. Build trust and loyalty and improve your brand and bottom line. 

So the next time you receive a customer complaint, remember that it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Respond in a way that reinforces your commitment to customer satisfaction and positive experience.

Five Proven Tips to Help You Deal With Customer Criticism and Anger

No matter how well trained you are or how much you love your job at customer service, there are cases when it is almost impossible to resolve a complaint easily and calmly.

IMG - 3- Five proven tips to deal with customer complaint
  1. The customer is extremely angry or even rude, and it seems you can’t calm them down. Here is something you should do (and it works every time) – ask them, “What would you like me to do to solve the problem?“. Keep repeating the question until the customer enters a positive mode. Then, find a solution together.
  2. Never try to diminish their dissatisfaction. Let them say all they need, but do not try to justify or explain the problem. You need to enter the “solution mode” as soon as possible.
  3. It’s always better to ask questions than to give explanations.
  4. Train yourself to have a smile on your face during the conversation.
  5. The more they shout, the more quiet you should speak.
  6. Talk to unsatisfied customers as if they were your dear friends.

How To Respond To A Customer Complaint About A Product

There are two scenarios when a buyer will complain about a product.

  1. The product doesn’t satisfy the expectations
  2. There are some real issues with the product – they have defects or do not work properly.

What to Do if the Customer’s Expectations Are Not Met

IMG - 4 How to Respond to Customer Complaints featured and turn them into opportunities

If a customer’s expectations are not met, there are several options you can consider as an eCommerce owner to try and address the issue:

  1. Ask questions and let them know you wrote down everything they complain about.
  2. Offer a refund or exchange.
  3. Provide additional support: If the customer has trouble using the product or has questions about its features or functionality, you can offer additional support through email, phone, or live chat. The best option for both is if buyers change their minds.
  4. Apologize and take responsibility if the issue is due to a mistake on your end, such as a delayed shipment or incorrect product description. This will build trust and loyalty.
  5. Offer a discount or bonus: You can offer a discount on their next purchase or provide a bonus item or service to thank them for their business and encourage them to shop with you again.
  6. Seek feedback and make improvements: After addressing the customer’s concerns, use online surveys to seek feedback on how you can improve your products or services to better meet future needs. This will help you identify areas for improvement and make changes that will benefit all customers going forward.

What to Do if the Product Has a Defect

Each company has some level of quality control. The department is always considered an expense. But, is it? The most costly product defects are the ones discovered by buyers. We do not talk about return costs. The damage is always much more serious. As said before, disappointed customers are five times more zealous in leaving a review than happy ones. The bigger the product fault, the greater the cost will be.

IMG - 5- how to respond to a complaint about faulty product

Here are the most extreme cases when customers “discovered” the defect:

  1. In 2010, Toyota had to recall over 8 million vehicles worldwide due to issues with unintended acceleration, which resulted in a $2 billion settlement with the US government.
  2. In 2014, General Motors paid over $600 million in compensation to victims and their families after a faulty ignition switch was linked to over 100 deaths and injuries.
  3. In 2019, Boeing faced significant financial losses and reputational damage after two crashes of its 737 Max planes killed a total of 346 people, resulting in a loss of $18.7 billion for the company.
  4. In 2016, Samsung was forced to recall millions of Galaxy Note 7 phones due to a battery issue that caused some of them to catch fire or explode, resulting in an estimated $5.3 billion loss for the company.
  5. In 2018, Facebook faced a data privacy scandal when users discovered that their personal data had been harvested without their consent by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, resulting in a loss of $119 billion in market value.

What Can You Do If The Product Has Defects Or Doesn’t Work Properly?

Based on numerous cases, here are five steps you should follow:

  1. Respond to the customer promptly and professionally, acknowledging their complaint and expressing your commitment to resolving the issue.
  2. Thank them for helping you improve.
  3. Offer the customer a refund or exchange for the defective product. Give them at least two options, and let them choose. Do not try to force the solution.
  4. Provide clear instructions for returning the product and ensure that the customer is reimbursed for any shipping costs they may incur.
  5. Investigate the cause of the defect and take steps to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.
  6. Follow up with the customer after the issue has been resolved to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.

How To Respond To A Customer Complaint Via Email Sample

When you receive a customer complaint, answering via email is a good choice when the issue is non-urgent, complex, or requires documentation. However, it’s important to consider the specific circumstances of each situation and choose the communication method that will most effectively resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.

How to respond to customer complaint via email - downloadable templates

Below, we give you three email sample templates you should use when answering a customer complaint.

Empathy-focused response email solution template

Dear [Customer Name],

Please, accept my sincerest apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you. I understand how frustrating it can be when a product doesn’t meet your expectations.

Your feedback is taken very seriously, and we want to ensure you feel heard and understood. We would like to offer you a full refund, as well as a discount on your next purchase with us, as a sign of our commitment to your satisfaction.

Please let us know if this solution meets your needs, or if you have any further concerns. We appreciate your business and hope to continue serving you in the future.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

Solution-focused response email sample

Dear [Customer Name],

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We’re sorry to hear that your recent experience with our product/service did not meet your expectations.

We would like to make things right by offering you a replacement product or an alternative solution that better meets your needs. Please let us know which option you prefer and we will work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your valuable feedback. We appreciate your business and hope to have the opportunity to exceed your expectations in the future.

Best regards, [Your Name]

Apology and solution-focused response email template

Dear [Customer Name],

Thank you for bringing your recent experience with our product/service to our attention. We’re sorry to hear that it didn’t live up to your expectations.

We take all feedback seriously and would like to make things right. Can you please provide us with some additional details regarding the issue you experienced, including your order number and any relevant photos?

Once we have this information, we will resolve the issue as quickly as possible by providing a refund or exchange, depending on your preference.

Again, thank you for reaching out to us. We value your business and hope to have the opportunity to serve you better in the future.

Best regards, [Your Name]

How To Respond To Customer Complaints On Social Media

Customer complaints on social media can be dangerous to your eCommerce business because they quickly spread and damage your reputation significantly. 

IMG - 7- How to Respond to Customer Complaints on social media

Here are some reasons why critiques on social media might be detrimental to your brand and business:

  1. Visibility: Social media complaints are visible to a large number of people, including potential customers, who will form a negative impression of your business.
  2. Amplification: Social media complaints quickly go viral, as other users share, like, and comment, amplifying the negative manifold.
  3. Permanence: Social media complaints are permanent and searchable. Even if you delete the original post or comment, it may still be accessible through search engines or archives.
  4. Lack of control: Critiques on social media are overwhelming, as you have limited control over the conversation and can’t respond promptly to every comment or message.

Given the risks associated with social media complaints, it’s important to have a strategy in place to address customer protests on these platforms. You should:

  • constantly monitor social media channels, 
  • perform competitive analysis to learn how your competitors handle complaints,
  • explore the best practices – learn from industry giants,
  • respond promptly and professionally,
  • take conversations offline to resolve issues in a more private setting. 

Differences Between Responding on Social Media and via Emails

The tone of voice used in responding to customer complaints on social media should be different from the tone used in responding to complaints via email. 

IMG - 8- Different responses to Customer Complaints on social media and via emails

Here are some key differences between responses on social media and by emails:

  1. Casual vs. formal: Social media is a more casual communication channel, so the tone should reflect this. Use a friendly and approachable tone. Be conversational and engaging. In contrast, email communication tends to be more formal and professional.
  2. Concise vs. detailed: Social media responses should be brief and to the point, using simple language that is easy to understand. Emails should be more detailed and comprehensive, allowing you to provide more information and context.
  3. Empathetic vs. practical: On social media, expressing empathy and understanding for the customer’s situation is important, demonstrating that you’re listening and committed to resolving the issue. In emails, the focus should be on providing practical solutions and clear next steps.
  4. Open-ended vs. action-focused: The conversation should be more open-ended on social media, with multiple users commenting and sharing their opinions. The tone should be welcoming and inclusive, encouraging further engagement and discussion. In contrast, email responses should be action-focused, providing concrete solutions and follow-up actions.
  5. Personalized vs. standard: Social media responses should feel personal and tailored to the specific issue and individual customer. Emails may include some standard language or templates, but they should still be personalized and show that you’ve taken the time to understand the customer’s concerns.

In both cases, being professional, courteous, and responsive is important. By adapting your tone of voice to the specific communication channel, you will build stronger relationships with your customers and demonstrate your commitment to providing excellent customer service.

From Complaints to Compliments: Order Tracking Software in Reducing Customer Complaints

Practice shows that order tracking software drastically reduces the number of customer complaints. Provide customers with real-time visibility into the status of their orders and shipments. Alleviate customer anxiety and uncertainty. Allow them to easily see when their order has been shipped, and when it will arrive.

IMG - 9- Order tracking software to reduce Customer Complaints

Delivery tracking apps reduce shoppers’ anxiety significantly. There are three major areas where the app has a large positive impact:

  1. Buyers’ guilt: Post-purchase guilt, or remorse after making a purchase, is common and can lead to regret, anxiety, and product returns. It is particularly prevalent for high-value or luxury purchases and online shopping. Order tracking software automatically sends an email soon after the purchase. The email is designed to maximize the post-purchase experience, and make a buyer happy and satisfied with the decision to buy.
  2. Waiting-at-home anxiety: Buyers don’t like sitting at home waiting for the delivery. It’s frustrating not knowing which day and time the courier will come. Modern order delivery tracking apps remove negative emotions. Regular update emails allow a buyer to organize life as usual.
  3. Resolving potential delivery issues in advance: Order tracking software helps resolve any complaints quickly. Customer service representatives have real-time updates on an order’s status and can proactively communicate with customers about any issues or delays.

Besides the three benefits listed above, TrackMage has more advantages for your eCommerce brand:

  1. Branded emails: You can customize the design of the emails your customers receive. It’s important to imprint your brand into their subconscious.
  2. Personalized up-sell promotional emails: While waiting for the delivery, your customers will receive emails suggesting other products based on their previous purchases. Statistics show that the probability of a second purchase rises three times during the waiting period.
  3. Positive reviews: TrackMage sends an email after the delivery suggesting a review. This practice significantly increases the number of positive comments and reviews.
  4. Long-time loyalty: Several days after the purchase, the final email will arrive asking the customer for feedback. Knowing your customers’ thoughts is the prerequisite for long-term loyalty and steady growth.

Outsourcing Customer Complaints: Why it is a Smart Move

Outsourcing customer complaints refers to hiring a third-party service provider to handle customer complaints on behalf of your business.

IMG - 10- Outsourcing Customer Complaints

Companies that specialize in outsourcing customer complaints and other customer service functions are often called Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) or Omnichannel Customer Experience (CX) outsourcing companies. They provide various services, such as:

  • handling customer inquiries, 
  • providing technical support, 
  • managing social media channels,
  • processing orders and payments.

Some well-known BPO and CX outsourcing companies include Teleperformance, Sitel, Convergys, Alorica, Sykes, and TTEC. These companies have large teams of trained agents who can handle customer complaints on behalf of their clients using a variety of communication channels – phone, email, chat, or social media.

If you consider outsourcing customer complaints, it’s important to carefully evaluate potential service providers and choose one with a strong reputation for quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Look for companies that have experience in your industry, offer flexible pricing and service models, and have a proven track record of delivering results.

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Customer Complaints

Cost savings: Outsourcing can be more cost-effective than hiring and training in-house staff.Loss of control: You are giving up some degree of control over how these issues are handled and resolved.
Expertise: Providers have specialized expertise in handling customer complaints, which leads to more efficient and effective resolution of issues.Quality concerns: Outsourcing providers may not have the same level of commitment to your brand reputation as in-house staff, and may take shortcuts or fail to meet quality standards.
Scalability: Outsourcing can help you scale customer service operations more easily, during peak periods.Communication barriers: Language or cultural barriers can sometimes make it difficult to effectively communicate with outsourced service providers, leading to misunderstandings or delays in resolution.
Flexibility: You will quickly adapt to changes in demand or customer needs, without investing in new technology or infrastructure.Response delay: Outsourcing providers may not respond quickly to customer complaints if they are understaffed or overwhelmed. 

5-Sentence Summary and Conclusion About Customer Complaints

  1. Customer complaints are a common occurrence in business and can be an opportunity to improve buyers’ satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Effective customer complaint management requires careful listening, empathy, and a commitment to finding solutions that meet the buyers’ needs and expectations.
  3. Communication is key when addressing customer complaints, and businesses should respond quickly, professionally, and transparently.
  4. Technology can play a role in streamlining customer complaint management, such as using AI-powered chatbots or social media monitoring tools.
  5. Outsourcing customer complaint management is another option for businesses, but it requires careful evaluation of service providers and clear service level agreements (SLAs).
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