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What to do if a customer complains

Criticism happens. Negative feedback is unavoidable. At some point in our lives, we’ll be on the receiving end of it. But how we respond to that feedback is what matters.

For business owners, complaints can be a prime opportunity; letting us know which elements of our business need strengthening, and how processes can be changed and improved. Negative feedback, therefore, is one of the best lessons we can receive.

No matter how or when we receive criticism, it’s important to make sure the customer feels genuinely heard. Make sure you acknowledge what they’re saying, don’t argue with them, and then offer productive ways forward.

While it can be tempting to ignore the negatives and focus on the positives (especially if the complaints are about problems outside of your control) taking the time to answer and engage can help improve your brand.

By taking the time to lodge a complaint, your customer has given you an opportunity to improve the situation and change their outlook. Therefore, answering tactfully and productively can be a prime opportunity to gain back the trust they have lost, and form the beginnings of a longer conversation.

This is especially important as customer-business interactions often play out through social media or in other visible places such as review websites. Even if a complaint is received privately through email, a customer may still post it online. A poor response on your behalf could trigger a wave of irritation amongst your other customers, in the same way a well thought out response could improve your reputation. People outside of the situation don’t really care who is right: even if you’re in the wrong, providing a positive solution can help you win hearts.

Remember: for every customer who complains, 26 remain silent. So when someone comes to you with a problem, listen actively, respond with specifics, and thank them for giving you an opportunity to grow.

- Lena Klein

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