Business Insight
Image of customer taking photo of food

Strategies for dealing with customer complaints

  • Begin with trying to empathise with the customer’s position and identify their emotional state as this will assist in understanding what they’re seeking from you in redress
  • If it turns out your staff were in error, put processes and policies in place to prevent a recurrence
  • Decide on the best way to fix the situation so you’re more likely to retain than lose the customer
  • Remember you’re being judged on your response and possibly by a wider audience than you realise
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, online review sites like Zomato and order apps such as DoorDash all have great benefits for connecting you with customers – but they also provide an opportunity for customers to post complaints about product, service, late or missed deliveries and more. 

And with everyone who uses those platforms able to see not only the complaints but your reaction to them, it’s imperative that you respond in a prompt, courteous and above all conciliatory manner – just as your staff (hopefully) would to a complaint lodged in person. Here are some strategies to use in dealing with customer complaints:

Empathise with the customer’s position

Try to identify their emotional state – are they angry, frustrated, disappointed? – as that will assist you in understanding not only what their issue is but what they’re wanting you to do about it.

Research whether the complaint is justified

If someone’s complaining about the quality of service, it’s best to identify the relevant staff members and get their side of the story. Remember that not all complaints are justified – some customers will exaggerate or have unrealistic expectations. And you need to emphasise with the staff member’s point of view, as well as the customer’s. If it turns out the staff member was in the wrong, it’s not enough simply to identify the error – you need to set up processes and policies to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Decide on the best way to fix the situation

Often customers are simply looking for an apology and will be satisfied with that. But if they were unhappy about a meal or their food was delivered late or in poor condition, it’s best to offer them a free replacement. This shows you’re willing to fix the situation and also gives you an opportunity to win them back as a customer for future business.

Remember you’re being judged on your response

Especially when you’re responding to complaints posted online, it’s important to respond politely and show everyone you’re committed to customer service and solving problems. Remember it’s possible your response is being read by a much wider audience than the customer with the complaint, and your business is being judged accordingly.

While it can tempting to simply delete negative online comments, you should bear in mind that others may have already seen them, which means deleting them can give the impression that you don’t care about your customers - or worse, that you have something to hide.