Following up a customer complaint

It is never nice to get a customer complaint, especially if you are a small business owner when it is easy to take it personally.

But it is a great opportunity to learn how to improve your business and to turn a complainer into an advocate for your business.

When you realise that only 4% of unhappy customers will actually bother to complain, it becomes clear just how much of an opportunity it is to impress the customer, and the message you send them once you have resolved their complaint is a critical part of making the most of that opportunity.

Many businesses miss this part of the complaints process out, but it is key to turning your customer into someone who will recommend you to others. Why? Well no business is perfect, and customers realise that, so they expect things to go wrong, but they want to do business with companies that value them and care about them – and that learn from their mistakes.

And that is why you need a carefully crafted final message to the customer once they have confirmed that their complaint has been resolved.

Here are the key elements of the message:

  1. It should be from the business owner, managing director or chief executive. This shows the customer that their complaint was taken seriously and gives credibility to the rest of the message.
  2. Ideally it should be a letter rather than an email – more personal!
  3. It should immediately apologise that the customer had to complain (I am sorry that…).
  4. It should explain that the business takes complaints seriously (We want to provide the best possible service to our customers and take any complaints seriously…)
  5. It should state that the complaint has been resolved, but not assume that the customer agrees (I understand that we have been able to resolve your complaint and that you are now happy, but please let me know if this is not the case…)
  6. It should ask for their feedback on how the complaint was handled (I hope you were happy with how we handled your complaint. Please let me know if we could improve our complaints process in any way).
  7. It should explain what the company has done as a result of the complaint (we have reviewed our (product/service/process) that led to your complaint and, thanks to your feedback have now (details of improvement).
  8. It should end by once again apologising that they had to complain and offer them a direct contact if there are any further issues or feedback they have (I apologise once again that you had to complain. I hope you agree that it has been sorted out to your satisfaction and thank you for the opportunity to learn and improve our business. Please let me know if you feel there are other areas we could improve).

Sending a letter such as this has been shown time and time again to have major benefits. It improves customer retention and generates referrals!

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