Avalara > Blog > Business > They Said What? Managing Customers’ Online Complaints

They Said What? Managing Customers’ Online Complaints

  • Oct 8, 2015 | Jaimy Ford

No business is immune from customer complaints. You simply can’t make everyone happy all the time. When you sell your products through online platforms, such as Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and others, the most scathing reviews are front and center for potential customers to read. Furthermore, social media makes is easy for people to share their complaints with the world.

Unfortunately, even if the commentary is unfair, it can dissuade customers from buying from you.

While complaints are pretty much unavoidable, how you respond to them can mean the difference between building customer loyalty and destroying it. Make sure you follow these rules when the inevitable happens.

Never, Ever Delete Comments

In some cases, as with Amazon, you don’t have the option to simply delete a bad review. But even when you have the power to do so, don’t.

Angry customers whose feedback is deleted often go on the warpath and tell anyone and everyone that your products stink -- and that you’re covering up the fact that they stink. Additionally, you look like you couldn’t care less about customers, and that is terrible for business.

Suck it up, leave the negative reviews posted, and address them publicly. Other customers will appreciate your transparency -- and your effort to resolve the issue. Besides, most customers will recognize when others are being overly critical, and many will come to your defense.

Act Quickly

Responding immediately is a must, mostly because technology has given us a need for instant gratification. Plus, says James Applegath, creator of vintage t-shirt marketplace Defunkd, “Every buyer has had a nightmare situation (or five) with online purchases. The longer you let the situation brew with customers, the more worried and frustrated they become.”

Even if you need more time to sort out the problem, send customers a quick message indicating that you received the complaint, and tell them specifically when you will respond. Then make sure you do.

Keep Your Cool

Your business is your baby, and when someone insults it or threatens its wellbeing, it’s understandable that you want to go all Mama or Papa Bear. However, being rude and belligerent toward customers is not the answer.

Remember the Marcy’s Diner incident from this past summer? Her rantings to an upset customer’s comments on Facebook went viral, and she received a tsunami of backlash. Not all publicity is good, and you don’t want to paint yourself as an angry, disrespectful -- or unhinged -- business owner.

Read the comments, set your feelings aside, and respond in a calm and professional manner.

Focus on Solutions

People are going to be dissatisfied. Some because they are just inherently so. Others because they have a valid complaint. Don’t get caught up defending your products or trying to convince customers that they are wrong. Focus on moving forward.

Andrew Royce Bauer, CEO of Royce Leather, a company that specializes in handmade leather accessories, says: “I focus on the future. I inform customers what I will do to fix the problem, and I go above and beyond to make sure they will have better experiences with me in the future."

Find a solution that satisfies the customer. That might mean issuing a refund, replacing the product and paying for the shipping, or offering freebies or discounts.   

Take it Offline if Possible

While you want to quickly acknowledge online complaints, Bill Fish, founder and president of ReputationManagement.com, a company that works with businesses to manage online reviews, says: “When people leave a negative review online, they want to be heard, so acknowledging that you received the message is the first step. From there, it’s best to take the conversation to a one-on-one setting. There is nothing worse than looking at a company’s back-and-forth with an unhappy customer [online].”

Finish the conversation via a phone call or email, and if you reach a resolution, post that -- or better, ask the customer to -- online.

Ultimately, don’t view complaints as an attack on your business. Instead, see them as an opportunity to connect with customers, resolve issues, make ongoing improvements, and position yourself as a leader in customer service.

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Avalara Author
Jaimy Ford
Avalara Author Jaimy Ford