How to respond to a customer complaint
Selling online means selling to all kinds of customers, which means dealing with every type of customer complaint under the sun. No matter what you’re selling, you’ll have to field customer complaints regarding shipping times, trouble with a purchase, payment issues, and much more. How you respond to a customer complaint will have an effect on your business’ reputation and potential for growth, so it’s important to take the time to learn how to respond to a customer complaint in the best way possible. Keep reading to better understand and better respond to your customer complaints.
Read and Understand Your Customer's Complaint
It may seem obvious, but the first step is to step back and try to truly understand your customer’s complaint. Oftentimes, complaints can put us on the defensive, which can inevitably affect the way you respond to your customer’s complaint. Instead, try to put yourself in the customer’s position and look at things from their perspective. They may not know that your courier is experiencing unexpected delays due to weather, for example, or that their order confirmation email was filtered out of their inbox by their spam filter!
Take a Moment to Process the Complaint and Get into the Right State of Mind
After you’ve read your customer’s complaint and considered their point of view, you’ll need to decide how you’ll respond. Even if something is out of your hands – like the courier delay due to weather mentioned earlier – it’s always a good idea to apologize to your customer. After all, their complaint is about their experience with your business, and you want to show them that you’re an attentive and helpful seller. Think of this as your opportunity to make your customer feel heard and understood, which can go a long way towards improving your buyer’s overall experience, even if there was a hiccup or two along the way!
Choose Which Action You'll Take to Address Your Customer's Complaint
Once you’ve apologized to your customer and acknowledged their experience, it’s time to consider how you’ll address the complaint itself. Depending on the issue, you may not be able to do something right away (e.g. in cases of customs-related shipping delays, or items damaged in transit, to name a few), but you should always respond to your customer as soon as possible, even if just to say that you need a day or two to figure things out. If possible, give your customer options, so they can choose the solution that works best for them. If they’ve received an item that was damaged on the way, you can offer them a partial refund to keep the damaged item, a return for a full refund, or a return for a replacement item, for example.
Responding to the Customer's Complaint
Once you've decided on the action you'll take, you can begin drafting your response. Keep in mind that, while there's no one-size-fits-all template, there are a few things that you'll want to make sure to include in your reply.
Begin by thanking your customer for their feedback
Even though the customer is unhappy, it's important to thank them for their feedback. This shows that you're open to hearing what they have to say, and that you're willing to make changes based on their input. In cases where a customer is very upset, this can also help defuse the situation by making your customer feel heard.
Call the customer by their name
Referring to your customer by their name is a simple way to show that you're paying attention to them, and that you will address their complaint individually. It’s a small gesture, but it can make a big difference in your customer’s perception of the situation, as well as their perception of your business overall.
Apologize to your customer and express sympathy
The next step is to apologize for the situation. Even if the cause of the negative experience is not your fault, it's important to take responsibility and show your customer that you’re sorry that their order has not gone as smoothly as you both would have liked. Reassure them by letting them know that you understand how they're feeling, and make sure they know that you're there to help.
Clearly explain your plan to solve the situation
This is your opportunity to offer your customer a solution to the problem, and explain in detail what their options are. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to give your customer the option to choose a solution that best suits them whenever possible. This gives your customer a sense of control over the situation, and makes them feel heard and valued.
Thank the customer again for reaching out
Ending on a positive note is always a good idea, as it leaves your customer with a good impression and reiterates that you're there to help. If you feel it is appropriate, thank the customer again for their feedback, and let them know that you look forward to hearing back from them.
Email Templates to Respond to Customer Complaints
No one likes getting complaints from customers, but it's an unfortunate reality of doing business. The way you handle and respond to customer complaints can be the difference between a one-time upset customer and a returning customer who will recommend your store to their friends and family.
One of the best and most efficient ways to handle customer complaints is to have a set of email templates for common issues that you can use to respond to the complaint in a consistent and timely manner. This enables you to ensure that each customer complaint gets the same high level of service, right from the start.
Below are four email templates that will help you better respond to customer complaints:
Order Didn’t Arrive on Time
Hello [Customer Name],
I'm sorry to hear that your order didn't arrive on time. We understand how frustrating it is to not receive your purchase when you expect it, and feedback like yours enables us to constantly improve our shipping service.
I've looked into the status of your order, and it looks like it was delayed due to a problem with our shipping partner. We're working on getting this resolved as quickly as possible, and will keep you posted with any new information I have as soon as it becomes available.
In the meantime, I've gone ahead and issued a discount of XX% off your order. I know it’s not an on-time order, but it’s a small step towards making things right.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to let us know.
Customer Received the Wrong Item
Hello [Customer Name],
I'm very sorry to hear that you received the wrong item. We want to make things right as soon as possible. Please let us know what item you received so that I can look into this issue with our warehouse, and so we can send out the correct one right away.
I’ve also attached a prepaid return label to this message. Please use this label to return the wrong item at your earliest convenience.
Thank you for your patience and for being a loyal customer.
The Customer Had a Bad Experience
Hi [Customer Name],
I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with our product. I would love to help you troubleshoot the issue and see if there's anything we can do to make it right.
Can you please send me more information about the issue you're having so that I may better assist you?
Thank you for your patience, and I look forward to hearing from you and solving this issue quickly.
There Was No Response to the Customer’s Previous Email
Hi [Customer Name],
I'm sorry to hear that you’ve not yet received a response to your previous email. We're currently experiencing a high volume of customer inquiries, and we're working hard to get back to everyone as quickly as possible.
I'll be happy to take it from here and assist you with your issue.
[Proceed to Address the Customer’s Complaint or Query]
Check to see if the customer is happy with the solution you offered
If you don’t hear back from your customer in a reasonable amount of time, it's important to follow up to ensure that the customer is happy with the solution you offered. This shows that you're committed to solving the problem and that you genuinely care about your customer's satisfaction.
Tips for Responding to Customer Complaints
No business is immune to customer complaints. Whether it's a product issue, a shipping delay, or a slip up in your customer service, complaints are bound to happen from time to time.
The key to dealing with customer complaints is to respond to them quickly and effectively. The longer you take to respond, the longer your customer has to ruminate on the issue and the more upset they’ll become. An upset customer is more likely to take their business elsewhere, and could even end up leaving you a bad review on their way out!
Here are a few tips for responding to customer complaints in the best way possible:
Keep calm and have a positive attitude
The most important thing to remember when responding to a customer complaint is to keep your cool. It's easy to get defensive when someone is criticizing your business, but it's important to remain calm and positive. Responding to your customer aggressively only serves to upset them further, and reflects poorly on your business.
Try putting yourself in the customer’s shoes
It’s always helpful to try and see things from the customer's perspective. If you can understand where they're coming from, you'll be in a better position to find a solution that meets their needs.
Seek the Customer’s Permission Before Taking an Action
If you need to take any actions in order to resolve the customer's complaint, be sure to get their permission first. This will show them that you're taking their complaint seriously and that you're not just trying to brush it off. It will also give them a sense of control over the situation, which can help calm things down.
Build a Response Bank
If you find yourself repeatedly dealing with the same types of complaints, it can be helpful to build up a "response bank" of pre-written responses.
Having a set of responses that you can quickly and easily customize will save you time, help you to avoid mistakes, and ensure that your customers all receive the same high level of service.
By following these tips, you'll be able to effectively respond to any customer complaint. So next time you're dealing with an unhappy customer, make sure to keep this guide handy. With the tips and templates above, you'll be able to handle any customer complaint that comes your way with ease.