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  • BBB Business Tip: How to handle a customer complaint

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    September 13, 2022

    BBB® Tuesday Tip

    Photo Courtesy of Getty Images


    According to a Sept. 2021 survey, 83% of customers are loyal to businesses that resolve customer complaints.

    Resolving customer complaints not only helps restore your reputation when trust has been broken, but also can help generate lasting loyalty with customers who feel their concerns have been properly addressed. In business, your reputation is your livelihood. By treating trust like any other skill that you can learn, improve and refine, your business can thrive. 

    Respond Professionally 

    In short, this sentence means one thing - solve the problem.

    Apologize for the inconvenience and get on your way to resolving the problem. What matters to the customer is that you are willing and able to handle the problem presented to you. Don’t make the company look bad... make everyone look great by being productive and proactive. If a situation warrants further investigation or action, that is another matter, but don’t bring the customer into it.


    A customer with a complaint may be angry and can expect resistance. By sympathizing you can defuse the situation. Statements such as “I understand how you feel,” or “I can see how you are upset by this” are often great phrases. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings without agreeing with their position. A friendly, open, non-defensive attitude lets the customer know how important they are to you.


    Be sincere in expressing regrets that the customer has been inconvenienced or disappointed. Then state the company position. Ask questions to find out if the customer understands company policy. If adjustments are in order, make them quickly, and cheerfully. If no adjustment is due, explain the company policy to the customer. If the company is at fault, admit it quickly and show your willingness to correct the error. If the error is the customer’s, allow him to save face. Remember, the purpose is to bring them back.


    The customer has expected resistance and is afraid you’ll do nothing about the problem. Fear must be eliminated before they can speak reasonably with you. “Mr. Customer, I am sure we can fix this for you,” or “Mr. Customer, we’ll do all we can.”

    Get the Facts

    People with complaints often generalize. They may start off saying that everything was bad, when in fact, only part of the transaction may have caused the problem. Ask questions, listen without interruption or argument, and re-state your understanding by paraphrasing what you just heard. See the customer’s point of view.

    Rebuild Our Reputation

    After apology, remind the customer that our company successfully deals with hundreds (thousands) of customers every year. Remind them that we have built a good reputation based on service and dedication to our customers. Let them know we appreciate them and are able to correct the problem.

    Thank the Customer

    Make the customer feel good. By now they’re a little embarrassed that they’ve created such a fuss. If they go away feeling that they’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, they may never come back. Be sure that you take the opportunity to thank them for the constructive criticism and allow them to save face.

    Be sincere and SMILE!

    At Better Business Bureau, our brand centers around trust. BBB Accredited Businesses recognize that fact and will often promote their partnership with BBB to help gain confidence with customers. 

    Whatever your goals are for your business, BBB recommends to always be responsive to customers and truthful in advertising.


    BBB of Northwest Florida

    912 E. Gadsden Street

    Pensacola, FL 32501



    Tammy Ward, Communications Director
    tammy@nwfl.bbb.org, (850) 429-0002