How to handle negative reviews and client complaints

by Gabi Anderson Courtney

client complaint, unhappy, feedback

Two things are for certain; there is a time for every business when something goes pear-shaped and you find yourself facing a client who is unhappy. The better scenario is if they talk to you direct, as it gives you the chance to make things right, and fix whatever went wrong.

Unfortunately some clients don’t feel that they should give you the opportunity to mend anything and take to social media directly leaving a bad review. It simply means that you will have to work a bit harder to win them back.

So, is the customer always right? Absolutely not. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that they won’t complain. How to handle it all? Here are some tips.

  • Listen. Show that you care. Every now and then people don’t even want a fix, they just want to vent. Let them. Try not to interrupt and listen. If they are not interrupted, they generally calm down while talking to you.

  • Show that you are thankful when someone complains. It gives you the chance to learn if something doesn’t work within your business, and find a solution so it doesn’t happen again.

  • Still, clarify and refute any inaccurate comments. Do it calmly and do not make it personal.

  • Realize that you cannot change how people feel. Don’t apologize if your business has done everything correctly, but you can say “I’m sorry that’s how you feel.” You have not admitted any wrongdoing, but at the same time, you have expressed sympathy for the client's feelings.

  • If one thing goes wrong, people seem to bring other things into the conversation as well. Don’t pay attention to the “background noise”, instead, try to identify the main issues that need resolving.

  • If you need to investigate an incident, don’t rush into trying to offer a solution until you have discovered all the relevant information. Do it as quickly, but as thoroughly as possible, and give the client a deadline when you will get back to them by. If you find that you cannot keep this deadline during your investigation, get back to them and let them know. Give a reason why you require additional time.

  • If you have received a written complaint, always respond within 24 hours.

  • Always, always, always be professional and do not make complaints personal. Don’t get defensive, even if the client is rude, still respond in a professional manner.

  • If it's a written complaint, and the client does not give you enough information, ask them to contact you directly to provide further details.

  • Offer a solution, but don’t give in to bullying. Some clients might say “I want a full refund and still keep the item / service, and if you don’t agree to this, I will leave you bad reviews on social media.” Stay objective and think what your solution would’ve been if the clients wouldn’t have made those comments. See if you can meet half way. Never be bullied into terms that you normally wouldn’t agree to because of the fear of bad reviews on social media. Even if the client decides to go down that path, every social media site gives you the chance to respond.

  • Sometimes you need to consider the source. Is it someone who is genuinely trying to help and providing you with information when something is not right, or does it feel like a person who is just seeking attention? Either way, you will have to address the complaint, but there is a difference on what you learn from it.

  • And finally, move on. If there was a real issue, and you have fixed it so it never happens again, move forward, and don’t look back.