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Have you ever experienced a customer complaint? If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky: even the biggest fish in the pond got a fair share of them.  

Complaints can be stressful and difficult to manage, but they are also a tremendous opportunity for businesses to learn, grow and build better customer experience.

In this post, we will explore the benefits of addressing customer complaints and discuss best practices on how to handle them effectively and efficiently.

Read on to learn more about why it pays to pay attention when a dissatisfied customer raises a concern.

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Table of contents

What are customer complaints?

Customer complaints are pieces of feedback that let you know where customers experience problems with your product or service. They are opportunities for your business to improve your offering and create a better experience for your users.

Customer complaints often arise when customer expectations are not met, whether due to product defects, poor service, or unmet needs.

They can be received through various channels, such as in-person, over the phone, via email, or through social media platforms.

Why collecting customer feedback is important

It is no longer a secret that online customer reviews and a great online reputation are essential for your marketing success. It has become a common practice for people to check online reviews before buying a certain service or product.

According to a report by PowerReviews, 99.75% of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. And, even more interestingly, a whopping 98% of customers consider reviews an essential resource when making purchase decisions.

In 2023 (and beyond), you simply cannot underestimate the power that even a single review can have.  

Besides giving you insights and bringing new clients, gathering customer feedback has many additional benefits and can open many new possibilities for your company.

The best thing is that gathering feedback can be as simple as creating a survey and sending it out. You can, for example, create a survey and embed it on your website to discover your customers' purchasing criteria.

The importance and benefits of customer complaints

Not all feedback is positive, after all. And that’s ok! 

Across all industries and product categories, 12.8% of American customers complained to businesses about something in the last decade, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). It is not uncommon even for well-established companies to deal with customer complaints on a daily basis.

As an entrepreneur, receiving criticism and unfavorable comments about a product you have put your heart and soul into may be frustrating. But you should not take it personally. 

From a different perspective, customer complaints can prove valuable to your business, resulting in rapid change.

Here's how you can turn customer complaints into a flywheel for your brand:

1. Improve customer satisfaction

Most of the dissatisfied customers will keep their negative comments to themselves and simply stop using your services.

However, those who do share their negative reviews usually express not only their own feelings but those of other customers, too. Have you ever seen reviews starting with “I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel this way…” 

So, when you get to the root cause and resolve customer complaints, you are likely to make more than one customer happy, which can entice many customers to stay.

According to ACSI, customer loyalty is stronger among those who experienced a problem and complained but their customer's complaint was resolved quickly.

2. Upgrade your product or service

When clients report negative experience with your product or service, or simply features or aspects they do not like, it provides a perfect opportunity to improve your offer. You no longer need to look for ways to make your service more appealing to customers to ensure that they keep choosing you over your competitors.

You don’t need to create bug bounty programs or check logs, either: everything is at your fingertips.

Customer complaints serve as a source of insights into the areas you should work on and upgrade. By studying negative feedback you can find new ideas for improving your product that you haven’t thought of before.

For that, you don’t even need to wait for feedback to pour in itself: you can be proactive and ask for it using surveys. 

Use our Software evaluation survey template to collect feedback on your product: 

3. Improve policies and procedures

Most companies have a number of policies and procedures designed to make the business run more smoothly.

However, you don’t always know if they are working as intended and suit your company's needs best. Luckily, negative feedback often highlights flaws in your internal processes and contains hints about what is not working or is unclear to customers.

By analyzing this information, you will be able to judge which procedures need improvement and which you should simply give up as they are inconvenient or unnecessary. 

At the same time, you might also receive feedback about your customer service team and how well they manage their responsibilities.

4. Boost customer communication

Customer feedback also serves as a communication channel between your company and your clients. Statistics show that customers are likely to switch to a competitor if their service experience is mixed.

In the 2024 Achieving Customer Amazement Study, 58% of customers would be likely to switch companies or leave a brand because of an inconsistent experience.

For many of them, it is important to know that their opinions are taken into account. Furthermore, when clients know that there is an open line of communication and their input matters, they are more likely to stay loyal to your company and spread the good word.

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5. Impact brand image positively

Having an open communication channel where unhappy customers can report problems with your service or negative experiences can also be beneficial for your brand image. It improves your reputation and makes your company look trustworthy and caring.

The more you go the extra mile to address the reported issues, the more satisfied your clients will be. Happy customers are more likely to share their positive experiences with their colleagues, friends, and family, which only helps to spread the word and build your reputation.

You can run a quick brand equity survey to determine if your complaint management efforts are effective. With this type of survey, you can measure how your brand compares to your competitors: 

Common customer complaints

In B2B, customer complaints are often more complex and can significantly impact business relationships. Understanding these common grievances is the first step toward developing effective resolution strategies.

Poor product or service quality

Defective or inadequate products: Customers may encounter products that are faulty or do not meet quality standards, leading to a complaint.

Solution: Implement a thorough quality control system and provide swift product replacements or repairs as needed.

Inefficient service quality: Complaints arise when services are delivered late, incomplete, or fail to meet professional standards.

Solution: Streamline service delivery processes and train customer service teams to enhance efficiency. Offer compensation or discounts for the inconvenience caused.

Mismatched expectations: A product or service that does not align with the marketing or sales pitch can trigger dissatisfaction.

Solution: Clarify product or service capabilities upfront and provide additional training or resources to ensure the offering meets the customer's needs.

Poor customer service

Delayed response: A slow response to inquiries or support requests is a frequent source of frustration.

Solution: Set and adhere to response time standards. Automate systems to acknowledge receipt of complaints and inform unhappy customers when they can expect a follow-up.

Lack of expertise: Customers expect to interact with representatives who have a deep understanding of the products or services.

Solution: Invest in ongoing training for customer service representatives to ensure they have product knowledge and problem-solving skills.

Poor communication: Unclear, inaccurate, or unprofessional communication can lead to misunderstandings and customer complaints.

Solution: Standardize communication protocols and provide templates or scripts to ensure consistency and professionalism.

Tip: To check the progress of your customer service reps, you can run the Help Desk survey every time your service team closes a ticket.

Billing and payment issues

Inaccurate charges: Billing discrepancies, such as overcharging or hidden fees, are common customer complaints.

Solution: Review billing processes, promptly correct errors, and offer a straightforward refund or credit for overcharges.

Complex payment processes: A payment process that is difficult or lacks flexibility can be problematic for customers.

Solution: Simplify the payment system and provide clear instructions. Consider offering multiple payment methods to accommodate different preferences.

Subscription or contract disputes: Misunderstandings regarding subscription terms or contract conditions often result in customer complaints.

Solution: Clearly communicate terms and conditions before the sale and provide a dedicated account manager to handle any disputes.

Technical difficulties

System downtime: Interruptions in service due to technical failures can cause significant inconvenience.

Solution: Develop a disaster recovery plan. Communicate proactively about the issue and expected resolution time, and offer compensation if warranted.

Software bugs: Glitches or errors in software products can hinder customer operations.

Prioritize bug fixes based on severity and customer impact. Keep customers informed about the progress of the fix and provide workarounds where possible.

Integration problems: Challenges in integrating a product with existing systems can lead to a complaint.

Solution: Offer technical support to assist with integration and consider developing more user-friendly integration tools or documentation.

Delivery and logistics

Delayed deliveries: Late delivery of goods or services can disrupt a customer's business flow.

Solution: Proactively inform customers of potential delays, provide accurate new delivery estimates, and consider compensation for significant inconveniences.

Damaged goods: Receiving damaged products is a common issue that prompts complaints.

Solution: Have a clear return and replacement policy in place. Inspect returned items and expedite the shipping of replacements.

Logistical errors: Mistakes in order processing or shipping details can lead to incorrect deliveries.

Solution: Review and optimize order processing systems. Correct any errors swiftly and consider compensating the customer for the inconvenience.

How to handle customer complaints

We have already established that customer complaints are essential for your product's growth, but how you deal with them is also crucial. 

For example, arguing back is one of the worst ways of dealing with upset customers. Even if you are not at fault, getting on the defensive will only make you look weak. 

In addition, it can be seen as a red rag by your loyal customers, leading them down a rabbit hole.

That is why you should always keep your cool and stay polite.

To calm and reassure your angry customer, it is always a good idea to apologize right away.

Like it or not, customers complain when their expectations are not met. Often, they just want to be heard, so let them know that what they have to say matters to you.

Try these seven proven steps of how to respond to a customer complaint effectively and turn an uncomfortable situation into an excellent customer service example.

  1. Address your customer by name
  2. Apologize to the customer
  3. Sympathize with the customer’s problem
  4. State you’re solving the problem
  5. Offer some compensation if applicable
  6. Ask the customer to change the review
  7. Accept negative reviews

Remember to always:

  • Address complaints quickly to show customers they are valued.
  • Understand the root cause of the issue to provide an effective solution.
  • Maintain open channels of communication throughout the resolution process.
  • Offer solutions that are specific to the customer's needs and situation.
  • Build customer feedback loops to ensure the resolution is satisfactory and to prevent future issues.

For more advanced tips and real-case examples of handling customer complaints, check out our in-depth blog post about responding to negative feedback.

How to collect customer feedback

There are quite a few ways to collect customer feedback. To increase the volume and get the best results, you can combine them.

#1 Online surveys

One of the most common and effective uses is surveys. Similar to feedback forms sent to your clients via email, this method allows you to decide what questions to ask your customers based on your goals.

Survicate allows you to create a multitude of surveys to gather feedback from your customers.

If you would like a quick snapshot of what your customers think of your brand, you can create an NPS survey. Getting low scores should make you reevaluate your customer experience:

#2 Social media

Using social media for gathering feedback is another popular approach. According to Forbes, social media can be a great place for advertising and selling your product as well as measuring metrics and understanding customer needs. Customers are more likely to leave candid reviews on social network platforms where they have an audience.

#3 Website analytics

You can also learn a lot by checking your website analytics. The following are examples of metrics you can check:

  • the most visited pages
  • where users spend more time 
  • details about failed searches 
  • bounce rate
  • which parts of your website are barely viewed

The data can also be expanded with embedded surveys, session recordings, and heat maps, just to name a few examples. You can never have too much data. 

Leverage customer complaints today

Customer complaints offer businesses a unique opportunity to better understand their clients and enhance the customer service experience. If approached correctly, they can actually be a blessing in disguise.

Surveys allow you to quickly and effectively gather both negative and positive feedback, which you can use to improve your products and services. In a blink of an eye, you can create, embed, or send surveys with Survicate. You can create them yourself from a scratch, use our expert survey templates, or leave it to our AI assistant—sign up today for a 10-day free trial of the Business Plan.

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