Angry customer yelling at customer service rep on the phone

7 Ways To Respond to Customer Complaints Effectively

13 min read
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Responding to customer complaints has always been an important part of a robust customer service strategy. It's vital to creating long-lasting customer relationships, building trust, and keeping a solid reputation. However, responding to customer complaints is often ignored and undervalued. In today’s digital-first, saturated world of online reviews and social media chatter, effectively responding to all reviews, but especially the negative ones, is more important than ever. Doing so is a simple way to solidify your online reputation and show the world that you take customer feedback and customer satisfaction seriously and will do what it takes to meet customer needs — even if it means admitting your faults.

We know that handling customer complaints isn’t always easy, especially when they’re posted online, where they will live in perpetuity for anyone with an internet connection to see. That’s why we’ve created this guide on the seven most effective ways to respond to customer complaints.

Keep reading to learn more about responding to negative online customer reviews and complaints in a way that will increase your brand reputation, customer loyalty, and trust. This advice will help you turn a negative experience into a positive one by encouraging customers to continue doing business with you because, let’s face it, we all have bad days.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Promptly addressing customer complaints is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Active listening and empathy are essential when responding to customer complaints, showing them that their concerns are being heard and understood.
  3. Apologizing for the issue and taking responsibility can help defuse tension and show the customer that their satisfaction is a priority.
  4. Providing a resolution or solution that addresses the customer's complaint demonstrates a commitment to resolving their issue.
  5. Regularly monitoring and analyzing customer complaints can help identify recurring issues and areas for improvement in products, services, or processes.
  6. Transparent communication throughout the complaint resolution process helps build trust and confidence with the customer.
  7. Going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations in resolving complaints can turn a negative experience into a positive one and potentially retain a loyal customer.
  8. Training and empowering customer service representatives with the necessary skills and authority to handle complaints effectively is essential for successful complaint management.

Table of Contents

1. Stay Professional

It’s really easy for you and your team members to get worked up and emotional when someone bashes your company and hard work online — after all, you're only human. However, it would be best if you did not let your emotions take over when responding to negative experiences because this can escalate the situation and cause you to lose a customer for good. Take a few deep breaths, walk around the office, and do anything else that will help you gather your thoughts before you reply so that you can stay as professional as possible in your response. Reply to angry customers the same way you would to a happy customer: remain calm, cool, collected, and professional.

Responding professionally also means getting back to the customer promptly, acknowledging why they’re upset, apologizing for what went wrong, and coming up with a solution. Suppose the customer has left a negative review on a public forum or social media. In that case, we highly suggest asking them for their email or phone number or sending them a direct message so you can follow up with them directly. This avoids public back-and-forth that can look like arguing in the eyes of other consumers.

2. Do What You Can To Right the Wrong

After a customer has an experience bad enough that they feel compelled to post about it online, you must do all that you can to keep their business. In order to right your wrong (even if it wasn’t completely your fault), ask the customer directly what you can do to remedy the situation. This will look different based on each customer and scenario, but it may be a free replacement order, a discount on a future order, and anything else you can do to go the extra mile to prove to the customer that you take their business seriously and value customer satisfaction.

When you take these extra steps, the customer will be much more likely to give you another chance. They may even update what they've posted online or make a new post to let everyone know that you took the time to listen to them and respond appropriately to fix what went wrong. This shows the customer and the public how much you value their business.

3. Don’t Leave Your Customers Hanging

Today’s consumers expect answers STAT. We have the instant gratification of the internet and social media to thank for that. The longer you leave them hanging or let their reviews go unanswered, the more likely they will continue getting angrier and abandon doing business with you forever — and the more likely they will be to continue writing negative reviews about their bad experiences. 

While you probably won’t be able to address and fix the customer’s complaint within one hour, you can undoubtedly shoot them a quick reply to let them know you’re doing all you can to work on it and find a solution. If you fail to do this and let their complaint slip through the cracks, you risk looking like you don’t care and don’t have top-notch customer service.

The good news is there are automation tools that can help you immediately reply to customer complaints. These tools will notify you of the complaint or company mentions in real time so you can get to work fixing the situation.

4. Listen to the Complaint

It’s easy to immediately go into defense mode when a customer accuses you of poor customer service, bad quality products, slow shipping, forgetting items from their order, or anything else they may complain about. However, in order to effectively deal with customer complaints, you must practice active listening when you get in touch with the customer. 

Try to personally get a hold of the customer as soon as possible so that your “dirty laundry,” aka the details of what went wrong, is not aired all over social media. On a phone call or email, or chat thread with the customer, start by asking them what happened, and give them the floor to address all of their concerns. We’re not saying you have to admit fault for every single customer complaint, but it is critical to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and listen to them without interrupting. Then, make it clear that you understand how the customer feels and why they’re upset, and apologize for the situation. 
You may even find that your customer is potentially using the product or service wrong which could be adding to their frustration. If you find this to be the case, pull out your best customer service and schedule a demo with them to make sure they are using everything properly and give them the platform to ask any questions they may have.

5. Put the Focus on the Solution

Once you’ve thoroughly listened to the customer complaint and apologized for their experience, it’s time to shift the focus to the solution. You can quickly offer an explanation from your side of what went wrong. Just make sure you word it as an explanation and not an excuse.

Sometimes even loyal customers complain or feel wronged by something they may not understand. Taking the time to offer the customer support and a thorough explanation can help gain a clearer understanding of what went wrong and how to avoid it from happening again in the future. Keep this explanation as concise as possible because the more you say, the more likely the customer may be to start another argument. So, listen, explain your side, and get to the solution.

When coming up with a solution, there’s one cardinal rule you must follow: don’t make promises you can’t keep. Just because one customer has a complaint with your pricing does not mean you are going to slash all of your prices by 50% — so never promise anything drastic like that. Instead, focus on a solution that is amenable to both parties. Offer an explanation to the customer of the steps you plan to take to fix the situation and how you’ll adjust the process to avoid the problem from happening again. When you take the time to explain this process, you show the customer you value their feedback and are serious about making the appropriate changes to keep their business.

Incentives for future purchases are excellent ways to soften the blow of the negative experience and encourage the customer to give you another shot. You could offer them a gift card, coupon code, or free shipping or item. This step is critically important, as statistics show it takes 12 positive experiences to overcome one unresolved negative customer experience.

6. Never Delete Comments

We know it can be extremely tempting to delete comments or ask the customer to delete or hide their negative review, but you should avoid this at all costs. That’s because deleting or hiding comments can make it appear like you are simply trying to sweep things under the rug rather than offer actionable solutions. In fact, when other customers can see that you took the time to reply to negative reviews by reaching out to the reviewer and attempting to fix the situation, they’ll be more inclined to trust you and give you their business knowing that if something does go wrong, you won’t be MIA. This helps build customer loyalty and provides you with the chance to showcase your great customer service.

You can also use this situation to your benefit in instances where a prospect or customer is complaining about a feature you may not have. This could cause potential customers to feel concerned over something that your company doesn't even offer. Address the negative comment by counteracting with a correction and maybe highlighting a similiar feature that you do offer that may help their business. 

Resolving customer complaints quickly and efficiently is the best way to create a good reputation for your brand online — not running from the problem and deleting comments.

7. Use an Advanced Customer Relationship Management Software

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a powerful tool to have in your reputation-building arsenal. When you consider the fact that 80% of people say they won’t buy from a business with negative online reviews, it’s easy to see why you may need a little bit of help when it comes to responding to unhappy customers and mitigating the situation. That’s precisely what powerful CRM software can help you do. Here’s how:

  • CRMs help you stay organized: No matter what size your business is, keeping customer information organized and easily accessible is no easy feat. The truth is, you can’t quickly address customer complaints if you can’t find them. CRM software can help you keep track of your prospective and current customers as they engage with your company via social media, email, your website, and even when your brand is mentioned on review sites like Yelp. This enhances your ability to respond to customer complaints and answer customer questions as soon as they appear. The sooner you respond, the less time the customer has to grow increasingly frustrated with their experience with your company.

  • CRMs allow you to integrate data: We all know how annoying it is when we have to repeat our problem to company rep after company rep — starting from scratch with each representative we get transferred to. Lucky for you, there’s an easy fix for this with CRM that allows you to sync important customer details every time they call in automatically. This information will automatically pop up on a customer service rep’s computer screen as soon as their call is connected to inform them immediately of the customer’s past complaints and purchases and where they are in the customer journey — no repetition or waiting required! This significantly reduces the time it takes for your customer service team to find out what the problem is and enables them to get to work immediately to come up with a solution.

  • CRM helps you keep your pulse on customer feedback: CRM helps you track, analyze, and address customer issues before they get the chance to escalate by giving you a tool to organize feedback and identify key areas of concern. The sooner your CRM helps you identify an issue, the faster you can work to resolve it before the customer becomes annoyed, frustrated, and abandons ship forever.


In conclusion, responding to customer complaints is not only necessary for resolving individual issues but also crucial for maintaining overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. By actively listening, empathizing, and taking prompt action, businesses can address customer concerns effectively. Apologizing and taking responsibility demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction, while providing appropriate resolutions shows dedication to resolving problems. Regularly monitoring and analyzing complaints helps identify areas for improvement and enhances product or service quality. Transparent communication throughout the process builds trust and strengthens customer relationships. By going above and beyond, businesses can turn negative experiences into positive ones, potentially retaining loyal customers. Remember, investing in training and empowering customer service representatives is key to successful complaint management.

To learn more about FiveCRM’s industry-leading CRM solution, schedule a discovery call with our team today. With FiveCRM, you have complete control over how your CRM platform will work for your business. Customize dashboards, reports, and workflows across 999 databases. We look forward to helping you find solutions to address customer complaints as quickly as possible.


  1. Q: How should I respond to customer complaints?

    • A: When responding to customer complaints, it's important to actively listen, show empathy, apologize, take responsibility, and provide a resolution that addresses the customer's concerns.

  2. Q: Why is it important to address customer complaints promptly?

    • A: Addressing customer complaints promptly is important because it shows customers that their concerns are valued, helps prevent further escalation, and demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction.

  3. Q: How can I turn a negative customer complaint into a positive experience?

    • A: By going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations in resolving complaints, businesses can turn a negative experience into a positive one. This can involve offering compensations, discounts, or personalized solutions to regain customer trust and satisfaction.

  4. Q: What role does transparent communication play in handling customer complaints?

    • A: Transparent communication is vital in handling customer complaints as it fosters trust, keeps customers informed about the progress of their complaint, and ensures they feel involved and valued throughout the resolution process.

  5. Q: How can businesses learn from customer complaints?

    • A: Regularly monitoring and analyzing customer complaints allows businesses to identify recurring issues, discover areas for improvement in products or services, and make necessary adjustments to enhance the overall customer experience.

Michael King says...

"I can’t think of a time where a client has requested something that we weren’t able to do with FiveCRM. Unlike most systems, it has a lot of flexibility."

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Managing Director, Senior Response


“Each client, and each of their campaigns, has its own unique specifications. We essentially needed to set up mini CRMs on one platform to meet those requirements.”

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Operations Director, Team Telemarketing

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