What are the Five Steps to Handle Customer Complaints

What are the Five Steps to Handle Customer Complaints

To handle a customer complaint well you must stay calm, listen to what they are telling you, acknowledge the problem, get the facts and offer a solution. 

Complaints happen in every business and industry. If someone has taken the time to make a complaint it is usually for good reason and should be taken seriously. Failure to do so can be damaging for your business. Perhaps their purchase or service didn’t meet their expectations leading to disappointment and frustration. If left unresolved this customer will not return and may also give negative feedback about your business to others, dissuading them from using your service. 

Many people will not complain, they will simply be annoyed by their bad experience and share this with others. So a complaint should really be used as an opportunity. However a customer brings a complaint to you, even if it is in anger, it should be treated with grateful thanks. If you are unaware of a problem, how can you solve it? Complaints make you aware of something you can fix and should never be disregarded. 

But how can you handle customer complaints so your company benefits from the information and the customer leaves happy? The following strategies will help you approach complaints in a calm and professional manner.

Five steps to handle complaints:

1. Stay calm

As obvious as this may seem, it can be so easy to give into frustration when it feels someone is attacking you personally. But always keep in mind the person is not really attacking you, it isn’t personal, you are simply the target of their disappointment. Nothing will be achieved by point scoring or trying to ‘win’ an argument. By staying in control of your emotions you show maturity and professionalism. Always remember you are a representative for the business. Keeping your composure and not being drawn into an argument will often calm tensions and the issue can begin to be resolved.

2. Listen

Often when people are upset they need to feel heard. Providing they are not using threatening language or behaviour, let them blow off some steam. Use encouraging phrases such as, “i see” and “I understand” to show you are actively listening. Don’t interrupt them. Once they have fully explained the situation and feel you have listened they will begin to calm down. This needs to happen before you can move on to seeking a solution. 

3. Acknowledge the problem

If a mistake has been made, admit it. It will not benefit your company to try and gloss over facts and pretend you are faultless. You may not want to appear less than perfect but in reality people are much more forgiving when mistakes are accepted. Acknowledge that this must’ve been frustrating for them. Even if you believe a mistake has not been made, be sure to show an understanding that this hasn’t been a pleasant experience for the customer. This shows respect and clearly indicates you value the customer and their opinion. 

4. Get the facts right

Once the customer has calmed down begin to ask questions. Be careful not to upset them by implying they are to blame. Try to gather as much information as you can so you have a clear idea of what has happened. 

5. Provide a solution

Once you have all the facts you can consider a solution. Never offer promises you can not keep. Once broken this will make the situation much worse. Be clear that you are taking responsibility for the situation and want to resolve the matter however you can.


Engage in Learning provide Customer Service Pathway courses which will help you understand why good customer service should be a crucial part of your business and how you can achieve it. TheHandling Complaints course will show you how to avoid the pitfalls that delay resolution and how to look for the opportunities to create customer loyalty.

Our Handling Complaints course can be found here