Nobody likes getting complaints from customers.

Especially when they’re aired on a public forum, like your social media accounts.

And if there’s one thing that you can expect to receive on your business social media accounts, it’s complaints.

Not all of them will be genuine, or even true, but when they happen you need to take action.

Luckily, there are ways to make customer complaints work for you, rather than against you.

It’s all too easy – especially when it’s your own business – to take the complaints personally.

And, if you take them personally, then three things will happen:

  1. You’ll become defensive
  2. You won’t respond in the best way
  3. You’ll miss an opportunity to develop your business.

It’s the third point that I want to focus on, because this is the part most often missed.

Here’s how you can use customer complaints to develop your business.

1. Understand they’re more valuable than positive feedback

As great as it is to get brilliant reviews and great feedback, they don’t help you identify areas of your business that could be improved.

And this sort of opportunity is incredibly valuable.

Of course, not all complaints are valid, justified, or even true.

But those that are represent absolute gold for your business development.

Look for common patterns across complaints – if several customers are experiencing the same issues, then it’s probably an area of your business that needs attention.

Even in isolated cases, there are lessons to be learnt.

Try and approach each complaint with this in mind – and remember, complaints are more valuable than compliments.

Complaints are more valuable than compliments. Click To Tweet

2. Be dispassionate and look for learning opportunities

This can be particularly difficult.

But it’s absolutely vital.

When I say “dispassionate”, I don’t mean that you should act as if the complaint isn’t a big deal.

Rather, I mean that you should distance your personal feelings from the issue.

It’s not a personal attack. It’s a customer who hasn’t had their expectations met.

It's not a personal attack. It's a customer who hasn't had their expectations met. Click To Tweet

So – look at each situation from the customer’s perspective AND your own.

What could you have done differently to avoid this outcome?

What should have happened, but didn’t?

And how can you put this right – not just in this case, but to avoid this happening again?

3. Engage with the customer early, openly, and regularly

It’s important, in customer service, to maintain an open and honest dialogue with the customer.

It needs to be easy for them to get in touch with you.

And the quicker you can respond to them, the better.

Being in regular contact with the complainant not only helps defuse the situation, but also presents an opportunity for you to pick up on those points for improvement for your business.

Be open with them, and ask questions to show that (a) you are taking their situation seriously, but also (b) that you are picking up on all the learning opportunities from the situation.

4. Feedback to the customer after changes have been made

This is often forgotten, but can be the most powerful way to convert a complaint into a loyal customer.

Once you’ve solved the customer’s issue, identified learning opportunities, and acted upon them to improve your business – then, go back to the customer and tell them how you’ve improved, and thank them for bringing the issues to your attention.

This can mend a previously broken relationship.

It can re-emphasise that you took the customer’s complaint seriously.

And it shows the customer that they’re valued.

And THAT builds loyalty more than anything else.

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David has worked with countless UK charities, businesses, and schools - with a brilliant track record of helping them with their biggest challenges. David is the founder of the Impact group - including Impact Charity Advisors, Impact Business Advisors, and Impact Education Support.