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Effective Communication Skills When Dealing With Customers' Complaints

Martin Hahn -- Master these quintessential service tips when working with customers and clients. They're fundamental to career success.

1. Understand the complaint.

Before you answer an angry customer, show that you have understood the problem of that customer. If the customer has explained his or her complaints you only need to repeat the problem and find a solution. If the customer complaints in writing, quote the words of the customer to show that you have carefully read their letter of complaint. Record all the relevant data with the customer in question like date of purchase, account number, previous contact with customer service, etc. If you still do not understand the problem, read tip number 2.

2. Ask for clarification.

An angry customer might be unable to write their complaint clearly. You can ask the customer to clarify the problem: did the customer receive a broken product or did the customer receive the wrong product? You can also ask how the customer wants the problem to be solved. Does the customer want the product to be replaced or does he or she want his or her money back? If you cannot clarify the problem and offer the right solution, you can make the customer angrier.

3. Personalize the response to the customer.

An angry customer will not be able to cool down if he or she feels that no one is there to listen to his or her complaint. Respond with the following: "Dear customer, thank you for your letter. We will solve your problem and we are happy to hear from you about it." So send a personal letter to convince them that their complaint has been recorded clearly. Always use the name of the customer and do not forget their gender and titles. Repeat the information from your company and integrate that with your message. "We are proud that you have selected us as your provider for six years and we want to continue serving you as our valued customer." Personalize your message with your name. The customer needs to know that there is a human being who trying to solve his or her problem.

4. Say that you will solve the problem as soon as possible.

An angry customer just needs concrete actions. So you need to specify how you are going to solve the problem of that angry customer. If the solution is complex break it down into steps which are understandable. If possible, state when the problem will be solved. "We will send your new order tonight and it will be delivered to you at 10 am." Or "We are going to check the shipment of your order right now to find out what went wrong."

5. If delivering a good message, say it first.

If you can make a customer happy, deliver the good message first and then show empathy. Good message: "We will refund your money with pleasure as you requested." Empathy:" We fully understand your frustration because you received your Christmas gift after Christmas." However, if you cannot make the customer happy because you have to say "no" to the customer, show empathy first and then deliver the "bad news." Empathy: "We understand your frustration because you received the Christmas present after Christmas." Bad news: "We cannot refund your money because your order has passed the last date of our product warranty."

6. Use positive and polite tone.

You might be tempted to use answer customer complaints with a similar harsh tone: "You have dropped your camera and it is not covered by our product warranty." Try not to make the problem worse by using the wrong tone because you will be flooded by more angry responses. Use polite and positive words: "Your camera seems to be broken because you dropped it and we are sorry to respond that we cannot replace it because our warranty only covers losses due to manufacturing mistakes."

7. Avoid blaming the customer.

Try to replace all the "you" words with "I" or "we." Do not say or write: "We cannot process your order because you did not mention your address on the purchasing order form." Say or write: "We cannot process your order because we do not have your address."

8. Recognize the customer's frustrations.

Maybe the customer's problem is not caused by your company or maybe you cannot solve the problem. But you can imagine the frustration of your customer. Empathize with your customer: "We know that whatever caused our server to malfunction has already caused problems at your office."

9. Apologize when you made a mistake.

When your company made a mistake, apologize. Make your apology specific. Avoid saying: "We are sorry that you are confused due to your credit application." Instead say: "We apologize for putting the wrong date on your application. We will amend this error immediately."

10. Satisfy your customer by offering something valuable.

If your company's policy allows you to give discounts, products, or gifts to angry customers, you can say: "We will give a 50 percent discount if you buy a new camera." Customer complaints in written form are more difficult to handle. You will not have the opportunity to hear or see the customer. It is still very important you handle the complaint professionally.


Martin Hahn Ph.D. received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. With experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting, he moved to South-East Asia and has worked for the last 24 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school teacher and administrator. As a senior educator in an international school, he has made the topic of symmetric and non-violent communication key to achieving consensus in this world.

© 2020 Martin Hahn

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