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Excellent customer service is the best way to maintain and retain customers. Sometimes things happen, and a customer is left unhappy with a product or your service. Having a well-developed plan to deal with unhappy customers will only serve you in the long run. 

Here is how to respond to a customer complaint:

Step One: Determine the Source of the Problem

Whether you receive a complaint through email, over the phone, or in-person; the first step when dealing with the customer is fully understanding what happened. Understand the problem from the customer's point of view. Was the problem the result of miscommunication between the customer and the business? Was it a miscommunication between staff? You must first clearly understand the source of the problem before you can work towards a solution. Be sure to ask the customer for clarification if you do not understand.

Note: Be sure to ask for clarification in an unbiased tone. You do not want to come across as defensive, but rather as trying to understand the best way you can solve the problem. 

Step Two: Solve the Problem

Now you can work towards actually solving the issue at hand. After you fully understand what the customer wants or was upset about, you can brainstorm solutions. Consider different solutions to offer to the customer. You want to come up with the best one for both parties involved. 

Always determine the best way to solve the problem before talking and offering a solution to the customer. 

Step Three: Sympathize with the Customer

Now that you understand the problem and how you can best solve it, you can communicate it with the customer. It is vital that you take this approach when dealing with your customers: It is not a customer failure, but instead, you were not able to service their needs accurately. In short, the customer is always right. You want to apologize for any inconvenience and remind the customer that what occurred was not up to your standards. Always start with the apology. 

Step Four: Focus on the Solution

After you apologized for the inconvenience, there is no need to belabour what happened. It is best if you instead focus on what you are going to do to solve the problem. Your customers do not want to hear excuses. They want to know what you are going to do to help them.

Step Five: Compensate the Customer

To ensure your customers are satisfied with your service, you must reimburse them. Try offering a replacement, store credit, or a refund. As mentioned in step 2, provide more than one solution. For example, replacement or a full refund. You don't want to keep their money if they are unhappy with what they purchased or the service they received. 

Step Six: Record the Complaint

Any customer service incident is an excellent learning opportunity for the future.  In an effort to avoid repeating the same mistake, be sure to record all customer complaints and the solution you offered as a reference. Communicate this to any staff working on the customer front, so everyone clearly understands the protocol. You don't want to deal with the same incidents in different ways, just in case your customers talk to each other. 

Customer complaints are bound to happen, no matter the size of your business and your experience. Being prepared is the best way to make sure any complaints have the smallest possible impact on your business. 

Are you feeling stuck writing a response email? Here are two great templates for inspiration:

Example 1: Wrong Order was Delivered

"Dear [First name],

We are so sorry you didn't receive what you ordered. We understand an experience like this can be very upsetting.

I've double-checked your original order, and the correct items should arrive tomorrow between [Time Period]. We would also like to offer you 20% off your next order with us. You can use this discount code [Discount Code] at checkout. 

I'll follow up with you tomorrow to make sure you received the correct items. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me directly.

Once again, [First name], we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this caused.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Contact Details]"

Example 2: Items Delivered were Bad 

"Dear [First name],

We are so sorry the quality of the products delivered were not up to our standards. We understand an experience like this can be very upsetting.

We will resend you new products immediately, and the items should arrive tomorrow between [Time Period]. We would also like to offer you 20% off your next order with us. You can use this discount code [Discount Code] at checkout.

I'll follow up with you tomorrow to make sure you received the correct items. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me directly.

Once again, [First name], we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this caused.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Contact Details]"