How to handle customer complaints online

Peyton Duplechien • 30 Jan 2022 • 5 min read

No matter if you run a big or small business online, the odds are that you’ve encountered at least one or two negative reviews before. In fact, we’d be genuinely surprised if you hadn’t received any complaints at all.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, handling customer complaints is a given when it comes to running any business. It can be a hard reality to face, especially for small businesses, and it can be easy to give in to the urge to ignore these negative reviews altogether and get on with your day.

Yet, not responding to customer complaints could actually hurt your business far more than more than the complaint itself! For example, according to ReviewTrackers, “45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews.”

Needless to say, that’s a huge percentage of your customer base. And it means you could potentially win over customers thinking about leaving by instead viewing customer complaints as a benefit that you can harness to bring about more business.

Of course, this can be a tricky path to navigate, which is exactly why we’ve pulled together this article on how to handle customer complaints online. From responding to customer complaints properly to how to avoid customer complaints in the first place, we have you covered.

How do customer complaints impact your business?

First of all, let’s look at how customer complaints can impact your business, and why you need to be aware of them. And to be honest, the reasons should be obvious – excessive customer complaints deter other customers from using your business to begin with.

Simply put, if your business is constantly receiving complaints about one or multiple areas of your company, then other customers will see these and not want to work with or buy from you. This in turn means you make less sales, which is naturally detrimental to your business.

So, in order to avoid this, it’s crucial that you avoid getting customer complaints to begin with and respond to complaints properly as and when they crop up.

How to respond to customer complaints properly

Ok, now we have some idea as to why you want to avoid customer complaints, let’s look at how to respond to customer complaints online. This differs somewhat from answering customer complaints over the phone, so we’ve outlined the core steps to follow when addressing negative reviews, below:

1. Respond promptly

Right off the bat, no matter the complaint in question, you should look to respond as soon as you can to any negative review, rather than just ignoring them. Doing this will help to resolve smaller customer issues quickly while also showing others that your business cares about addressing these issues.

However, you don’t want to rush this process. When you find a negative review, take a minute to read it clearly and make sure you understand what the reviewer is saying. That way, you can be doubly sure any response you send addresses their particular issue.

2. Be polite

It can sometimes be hard when handling customer complaints, particularly with rude and aggravating comments, not to come across as defensive. But it’s crucial that you maintain a polite, empathetic, and understanding tone with your response.

Try to step into the customer’s shoes. Most of the time, when someone posts a review, they just want to be listened to. And you’ll avoid any potentially ugly discourse in the review section by trying to understand exactly where they’re coming from.

3. Acknowledge the feedback

If there’s one thing customers love to see, it’s companies genuinely trying to understand and take onboard legitimate critical customer feedback. After all, by having these missed areas for improvement highlighted for you, you can improve your business model overall.

Thus, when responding to customer complaints, start by acknowledging and thanking the customer for the feedback and letting them know that it will be taken on board as a means to resolve the issue.

4. Provide opportunities to address their complaint

Once you understand a customer’s complaint and feedback, your next goal should be to assess whether or not you can take a customer’s issue further, either by phone call or email. This will show the customer that you’re listening and allow you to address actionable complaints.

Of course, not all complaints can be actions, but in these cases, it’s always worth extending the offer of appropriate compensation where possible to show as a means of making amends to the dissatisfied party.

5. Gently correct misinformation

Sometimes, a customer may make a complaint based on misinformation or confusion. In these scenarios, it’s very important that you do not call them out or respond in a hostile manner to their misunderstanding.

Instead, sympathize with the customer and then explain why you do things a certain way or direct them towards the information they thought was missing. Then wrap up your response by acknowledging the issues they have raised and that your business will attempt to make unclear information more visible.

6. Personalize all responses

Last, but not least, you should always try to personalize any responses you make to customer complaints, as this shows you’ve clearly taken the time to sit down and read their concerns and have not simply sent them an automated response.

With that in mind, always address a complaining customer by name when you can and show that you fully understand the problem they are having. And whatever you do, do not use any form of template. These will be readily spotted by any customers looking for them and damage your customer-service credibility.

What are the benefits of receiving and handling customer complaints?

Hopefully, you should now have a much better idea of how to deal with customer complaints, but why should you be viewing customer complaints as a benefit in the first place? Why not just leave them be?

Well, there are several key benefits to answering customer complaints, including the following:

  • Increased loyalty – by answering online reviews, you show customers that you care. This will go a long way to retaining your current customer base while also winning new customers interested in your services.
  • Improved reputation – by answering complaints, you position yourself as a business with a leading customer-service reputation in your industry, making it more likely that customers will turn to you rather than your competitors.
  • Elevated efficiency – by examining customer feedback with a critical eye, you can spot potential bottlenecks and areas of improvement for your business, allowing you to improve your customer service and avoid further complaints in the future.

How to avoid customer complaints to begin with

Although there are several benefits that come with answering customer complaints, at the end of the day, it’s still better to reduce the amount of complaints you get in the first place.

There are several ways you can do this, many of which we highlight in our articles examining how bad customer service can affect your business. However, we’ve highlighted a few key points to bear in mind below:

  • Deliver excellent goods and services – if the products or services you provide are of good quality, then customers are less likely to complain about damages or bad service.
  • Provide clear points of contact – if a customer does want to get in touch with your company before leaving a review, make sure that it’s clear to them how to do this.
  • Offer smooth customer service – if a customer calls in to make a complaint, make sure you have staff in place who are trained to answer complaints professionally and in a calm manner.

Deliver great customer service with VoiceNation

You should now have all the information you need to handle any customer complaints that come your way online. However, handling customer complaints online is very different to running a customer service team over the phone. And that’s where VoiceNation can help!

Experts in the answering industry, we’ve been voted as one of the best live answering services for small businesses in the states. We pride ourselves on making your customers’ experience with your company the best it can possibly be, and our professionally trained virtual receptionists are here to answer your calls right away.

Get in touch today to learn more about our services, ask about our price packages.