Complaints are an unfortunate inevitability when selling online, especially when products are made to order or personalised. Frustrating though negative feedback can be, it can also be an opportunity to fix and improve a relationship. A complaint is a chance to show customers who have got in touch that you value their custom and take their concerns seriously. It’s an opportunity to involve customers with your programme of ongoing improvement.

Hannah Meurice, our cool-headed, calm and reassuring Office Manager has given her three top tips for dealing with customer complaints:

Listen

Take time to listen to the issues the customer has raised. They have made the effort to pick up the phone or write a message, and the feedback they give should be taken on board. Ask questions to find out exactly what has gone wrong, especially if the problem is the result of a question of taste or preference. Customer feedback is always important to hear, especially when something has gone wrong.

When making bespoke items, a lot of thought and effort has gone into selecting the perfect components to make the product. When a customer has a problem with their order it can be hard not to take this personally, but it’s important to take a step back and respond without emotion, impatience or anger. It may be that the customer is angry or upset; give them time to express their concerns, if necessary without interruption.

Respond

Remember to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They too have put thought, time and money into choosing and often personalising the perfect present for a loved one, so if the gift arrives incorrect it can be very upsetting. It’s important to show you understand that they are invested in the order too, and sympathise with their situation.

When writing a response, re-read and draft the message before sending, and ask a colleague or family member to check it if you’re unsure of the tone. The message should be calm, friendly, helpful and professional. Take care to avoid coming across as accusing or too emotional, and try not to pass the blame back to them or to others. As customers, we would always prefer to hear a solution to a problem, rather than the excuse.

Thank the customer for their feedback, and tell them you’re sorry they are disappointed or unhappy with what you have supplied. If it’s appropriate, telling the customer the reason for what went wrong may help them to understand the situation from your point of view.

Resolve

When offering a solution for the customer, take care to ensure that your suggestions are possible and reasonable for both parties. There is no value in promising a solution which may you later find is impossible to deliver.

Customer feedback is invaluable to every organisation, so tempting though it may be to ignore negative comments it’s important to take them on board. Future-proof yourself from receiving the same complaint again, by ensuring that product descriptions and photographs are clear and informative; avoid misleading customers to better manage their expectations. During the order process maintain communication with customers to fix any confusions as they arise. The complaint may also show that further staff training is required on your production process or quality management.

Where appropriate, let the customer know where their feedback has been taken on board, for example a change in production or a new product feature.

Further reading: Katie Cowan, Founding Editor at Creative Boom has got some great advice for dealing with email complaints from clients in the creative industries; you can read her article here