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How to Handle Customer Complaints to Boost Loyalty

Hint: there’s more to it than just how quickly you resolve a customer’s complaint.

Posted by Katie Yahnke on May 24th, 2019

Zig Ziglar once said: “Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business”.

Many don’t realize that receiving a customer complaint is a chance to make changes and improve your business practices. Companies will see the most benefit if they evaluate how long it takes to handle a customer complaint, and then improve on that.

In fact, “experience suggests that the number one thing that dissatisfies customers is how long it took to handle the problem. This holds true across industries,” explains Bob Davis-Mayo, president of Davis–Mayo Associates, a customer service training and consulting company.

Companies that use case management software find it easier to track, escalate, respond to, manage and resolve customer complaints. Learn more here: Managing Customer Complaints Effectively with Case Management Software eBook


It’s All About Perception

“An ideal response time frame does not necessarily equate to elapsed time. It is the customer’s perception of you and the process you are putting them through during that elapsed time that becomes the measure of what is ideal”.

In other words, it’s not always about how long it takes you to resolve an issue, but often about how the customer perceives the way in which you are handling their issue. There are things you can do to show that you are working toward finding a solution.

The one thing to not do is put the issue off or make the customer feel like their complaint is not a priority. If a customer knows you are actively working on a resolution for their complaint, they will likely be satisfied with that. For a while, anyway.

If too much time passes before resolving the issue, the customer will become frustrated. However, determining how long it will take for a customer to go from satisfied to frustrated will be different for everyone.

In fact, Mike Blumenthal, the co-founder of GatherUp, asked 480 U.S. adults what is a “reasonable amount of time” for a local merchant to respond and resolve a complaint. This is what they said:

Some expect their problem to be responded to and resolved in minutes, while others are fine waiting up to a week. So, since expectations vary, what really is the most effective way to approach customer complaints?


Work Quickly and Take the Right Steps

While there is no one right time frame for handling customer complaints, there are some steps that should be taken right away. According to Davis-Mayo, those steps include:

  1. Being proactive in setting expectations before an issue arises. Establish a realistic time frame with the customer. This way, customers understand the complaint process and what to expect from your company.
  2. Focusing on respectful communication while handling the issue. The customer needs to know you have listened to them, that you care about their complaint and that you want to assist them.
  3. Managing each step effectively with processes and technology. This includes tracking customer complaints, monitoring the progress of the process and providing customers access to helpful information.

You may not yet feel that a customer complaint is anything to get excited about. But, find a way to effectively handle them and you may become beneficial to you.

“Even when you cannot satisfy a customer, or they don’t get exactly what they want or within the time frame they wanted it, you can usually say and do things to maintain their loyalty,” explains Davis-Mayo. “Isn’t this the real goal? That leads to a better brand reputation and bottom line”.

Katie Yahnke
Katie Yahnke

Marketing Writer

Katie is a former marketing writer at i-Sight. She writes on topics that range from fraud, corporate security and workplace investigations to corporate culture, ethics and compliance.

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