A Guide on How to Handle Customer Complaints

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There is only one boss – the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”- Sam Walton, Founder Walmart.

Handling customer relations is one of those seemingly minute factors that can go a long way to make or mar a business. And unfortunately most business owners in Nigeria keep overlooking this; little wonder why they never seem to outgrow the “small business” tag.

This article is not set to re-emphasize the age long “customer is always right cliché”, yes we know that sometimes customers go overboard is forcing that right down your throat. This article is set to give you useful tips on how to handle situations with customer complaints and also give you tips on how to better handle customers.

Why are customer complaints important ?

Because customers are what keeps a business in existence. Their patronage is what puts money in your account and the number of customers one gets it basically what sets a small business aside from a huge brand. Better get it right.

First of all…

You should know that no matter how nice you are or how much quality your give out, you will most likely still get customer complaints. They are indeed one inevitable part of running a business.

Now that we have established that fact…

Let’s talk about the best ways to handle these complaints and turn them into an added value for your business. Customer complaints should never go unanswered, they should always be acknowledged and dealt with accordingly no matter how minute you think they are. Ignoring their complaints makes it look like you don’t care about their opinions and this is a bad impression for a business to have.

How to take customer complaints

I decided to make this a whole sub topic because this is where most businesses start to get it wrong. You should start making the impression of how much you care for your customer right from where he or she start to register their grievance.

  • Stay unemotional

This single point should be hammered. Most customer complaints are filled with criticism of your business and this is why most business owners start to trip. They get all emotional and even end up exchanging words with the customer.

  • Pay Attention to the Customer

If the customer is talking to you in person then by all means pay them attention. Don’t make it look like you are too busy to attend to them or like you are blessing them with your time. Let’s face it, if not for the customer’s patronage you would not even have a job.

  • Be nice

Never be rude to a customer, no matter how small their patronage is. Address them well and never make them feel unimportant

  • Rather than blaming them, correct them

Yes I agree that sometimes what the customer is complaining about is actually their fault. This however does not mean that you should heap all the blame on them. If the issue is really their fault then correct them instead. Rather than say things like “this is your fault”, say “next time please do it this way to avoid this”

  • Be Empathetic

Empathy here means you should try to understand their problem from their perspective. Understand their grievance and why the seemingly insignificant issue mattered to them so much that they decided to reach out.

  • Don’t Cut them Short

Don’t interrupt them while they are still talking. Don’t assume you know how their complaint will end because you have dealt with the same issue before. Let them talk to their fill.

How to respond to customer complaints

  • Apologise

After they must have registered their complaint. The first thing you should do is apologize. Apologize for whatever inconvenience you may have caused them.

  • Give them a Compensation

After apologizing the next stop should be offering to rectify the problem and also offering a compensation. The compensation could be a gift bag, a voucher or a discount on their next patronage.

  • Give the compensation options to choose from

You can even let them make the choice of what compensation they want. Some customers may demand for a compensation package after airing their complaint while others may not. The bottom line is, find a way to make it up to them. It should also be a way that will truly stick in their memory.

Here are a few rules you should always try to abide by if you intend to get customer care right.

  • Never argue with customers

Arguing with customers only worsens the situation at hand. Your aim should be changing their unpleasant experience to a better one that will make them still want to do business with you.

  • Resolve their complaints as fast as you can

Don’t set their complaints aside and forget to attend to them. If you gave them a date for when their issue would be resolved, do well to have it resolved by that date. Fix whatever the problem is as fast as possible.

  • Keep records of all customer complaints

This is to help you find out what the most recurring problem is so you can fix it from the source. This way the problem will not keep recurring and you can save yourself the time you would have spent on trying to resolve the same issue for another customer in the future.


One of the most important factors to staying on top as a brand is by maintaining a good and faultless reputation. Your reputation is a direct function of how your customers feel about you and what they are saying about you. Resolving customer complaints is one of the ways to make sure they feel good about you and say well about you to others. You can even go as far as having a customer complaint handling procedure so your staff always gets it right.