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Dealing with Customer Complaints

Thursday, December 27, 2012   By Mike Reddy


The harsh truth about customer behaviour is that when dissatisfied, they are more likely to simply take their business elsewhere than make a formal complaint.

The process of making a complaint is often perceived as a long, arduous and often fruitless journey. Who has not spent an infuriatingly long time on hold with a customer service rep?

The trick here is to position your business as one who values customer opinion and create channels that are fast, efficient and deliver results.

Encourage customer retention and you will see profits increase.

A thriving business creates customers who are willing to act as its strongest advocates.

Research shows that around 80% of customers who defect were satisfied with the original business. Something went wrong- finding the problem is imperative in order to survive and thrive.

Some of the world's biggest restaurant chain operators employ a simply acronym for successfully dealing with customer complaints:


These are the fundamentals for handling complaints. How well your business negotiates these five vital steps will ultimately determine the customer's decision.

Customer complaints can be a stressful affair. Always apologise. By apologising you are not necessarily acknowledging fault but rather showing that you are apologetic that the customer is upset. Remaining calm is essential.

The benefit to being a smaller business is the ability to address issues quickly. Take advantage of this and work through problems before they have the opportunity to impact on a larger level.

If accepting the complaint via phone, take notes. This will help you wade through the drama and get to the root of the issue. Keep all notes in one document or file, for easier problem assessment, or better still, a computer-based CRM system.

The customer will not always come to you. Be proactive when gathering feedback- a follow up call may unearth problems that would have led to defection if they were not addressed.

Easy access to customer support services is one of the most important aspects here. A hotline is not effective if the wait time is likely to incite further frustration for the customer.

Provide options when it comes to service. Create a hotline, live online customer service rep and an in-store desk to handle complaints or negative feedback.

Seek advice when a problem seems difficult to resolve - get creative in your solutions. The ultimate goal is customer retention and this requires a company-wide commitment to customer satisfaction.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.