5 Ways Your Customer Service Team Can Handle Customer Complaints

Hana Mohan

4min read

Your customer service team handles multiple requests on any given day and serves as one of the most vital links between your organization and its customers. Generally speaking, most of the complaints will be due to some kind of unmet expectation, or miscommunication, that couldn't be dealt with in the normal course of the sale. Of course, it doesn’t matter how big or small the complaint may be, it’s up to the company to train each and every customer-facing team member to take all requests, complaints, and suggestions with the same level of seriousness and treat them with the same level of care.

How your customer service members are able to resolve customer complaints says a lot about your company’s culture and commitment to service excellence. When customers are unhappy with a product or service, studies have found that just 1 out of 26 will register a formal complaint. That means 96% won’t take the time to make you aware that they’re dissatisfied, and 91% will simply leave. Too often, unhappy customers share their stories with others (sometimes in the vast, unpredictable space of social media), and you will never know how you could have improved their experience. While criticism can be tough to handle, the customer that chooses to speak with your customer service team is actually doing the organization a favor by highlighting the issue.

Equipping your team with the right software, tools, and training will help ensure that your company provides consistently exceptional service for your customers and learns something from each complaint. Here are 5 great ways that your customer service team can handle your customer complaints.

1. Thank Them and Apologize

Nobody likes to complain. Sure, you could point to a few examples of customers that seemed to enjoy every minute of their complaints, but, in general, it's not a happy situation for anyone. What your customer really wants is to be heard, understood, and to receive some closure to the issue. One of the best ways to handle a complaint at the outset is to simply listen clearly, avoid making excuses, and genuinely thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention. Adding a sincere apology for the trouble this situation has caused them can also help ease any tension.

2. Keep Comprehensive Records

An effective customer service team has the right information available to them. Good recordkeeping is a must. Some complaints may be due to a genuinely unique issue, but others may be clustered around a specific process concern or other common issues. When a new complaint is made, is there any record of a similar issue that was raised before? If your team is reviewing data and can determine if a pattern has developed from repeat issues, you can educate your entire support team to promptly address similar customer concerns going forward.

If it’s an issue requiring customers to take action, add documentation and guidance on the issue to your knowledge base. Additionally, it often helps to keep customers in the loop, making them aware that an issue has been identified and is being addressed. When you take this approach, be sure to notify customers when a resolution is available, either via a personal phone call from a customer support rep, an email announcement, or an alert in your customer portal system.

3. Come to a Clear Agreement

Each customer is unique and will have their own perspective on their issue – and what a satisfactory resolution looks like. Taking the time to understand exactly what outcome they are expecting is important. From there, your team can use their level of authority and company guidelines to accept the customer’s request or offer an alternative resolution. In some cases, your front-line customer support representatives may need to escalate a request to a supervisor or get approval from management before offering a resolution. Keeping a customer waiting on hold for an extended time can have a negative impact on the customer’s perception of the overall support experience, so be sure that there are clear processes in place for expedited escalation and approval.

Once there is alignment on the request, it can be entered into the system along with any management approval requests or system tickets. Providing the customer with a confirmation email is a great way to clarify the complaint resolution for both parties.

4. Company Policy Should be a Guideline and Not Strictly Enforced

One of the most dreaded words a customer can hear is the “sorry, it’s not company policy” line. Of course, companies need policies to protect themselves and avoid situations from escalating to an unreasonable level. That said, company policy should be a guideline and not strictly enforced.

Give your customer service team some flexibility in developing resolutions to satisfy customer concerns, within broader company policy guidelines. By doing so, you’ll give your employees a sense of empowerment and ownership – and happy, satisfied employees tend to provide better customer service, which means your customers will be happier, too. Placing trust in your employees and granting them the necessary authority to make decisions in resolving complaints just might be a key competitive differentiator for your business.

5. Make a Timely Follow-Up

Regardless of whether a complaint was closed or remains open pending resolution, you should always follow up directly with the customer about 24-48 hours after an interaction with your customer service team. Doing this not only shows that your team is proactive but also allows you to share updates on any progress or learnings. If the follow-up message comes directly from a manager, it can have an even bigger impact on letting your customers know that you value their business.

Customer complaints are a part of doing business, and the more you sell, the more complaints you are likely to receive as time goes by. A team that is trained and familiar with effective ways to resolve customer complaints can truly differentiate your service and lead to more satisfied and loyal customers.

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