6 Steps to Handling Negative Customer Feedback & Complaints

Implement these proven techniques for your team and see your customer service increase, and customer complaints go down!


Training your staff to ask the right questions and listen is the first step to not only creating a great customer experience, but also to handling customer complaints. When a customer is upset, the last thing they want is someone to jump in and offer a solution before seeking to fully understand the problem. Include in your team member training role plays where they have to listen to seek to understand the customer and ask the right questions for a speedy resolution. In order to diffuse even the most difficult situation, and to ensure the customer leaves happy you must listen to understand the feedback and then move to solving their problem fully as quick as possible. Many times just listening and applying a genuine apology can create a great interaction.



A genuine apology can go a long way. Customers want to be heard and know that your team cares about the problem, big or small. Include in your team training how and when to apologize to the customer. The customer isn’t always right, but you do want to make them feel heard and appreciated. Many successful businesses empower their employees to find a way to say yes, and really apologize with extra special treatment, creating that brand loyalty and great guest experience.



Many team members have a lot to do in the day and a workload that keeps them busy from start of their shift to the end of the day. Depending on their position and responsibility they may or may not always be in front of customers. Teaching ALL of your team that the customer ALWAYS comes first and to be present for customers can elevate your guest experience and help with faster problem-solving. Being present along with listening can help to full solve the right problems for your customers. You must know and fully understand what they are complaining about. If they are unsure if the customer is done, teach them to ask the purchaser if they have any other concerns. Then keep listening while looking in their eyes.


It starts with a simple apology.  No one likes having to return to a store for a return or problem. After this your team must clearly let the customer know how they can help and what they can do. Most customers are reasonable and understand that mistakes can and do happen. Those businesses that handle customer complaints with urgency benefit from a return customer and built trust. Empower your team to take action and do what they need, within reason, to ensure satisfaction. If they can easily give a refund – do it. Your team must be clear in explaining to the customer what they can and cannot do. Customer service training is crucially important for anyone who might handle a return or complaint. Trust and train those who will be in contact with customer complaints so the customer only has to deal with one person and only once.



One critical step that is often missed by front of line team members is asking if the customer is fully satisfied.   When the situation has been resolved, at the end of the transaction simply ask the shopper if they were satisfied. It may not seem necessary but it opens the door for the customer to be honest and ensure they leave happy. They may even offer a compliment, advice or feedback that can help you improve even more. As a retailer, you choose to make the customer happy or have them leaving upset – potentially sharing either their exceptional experience or a horrible one with friends, family and other potential customers. Check for satisfaction and both your team and your customer will leave happy!



Learning from each other on your team is a great way to develop team member capability to handle complaints. Also, as the business leader share how you handled complaints. No two complaints are the same and training different approached aligned with your businesses mission and values benefits everyone. Every interaction is different so use the nuances, the exceptions and the positive outcomes to train at your next store meeting.

Above there are several great ways to ensure your team delivers a great customer experience. Teaching your team to handle customer complaints as gifts on how to improve can unlock that exceptional experience and keep your customers coming back again and again. Use these opportunities to learn, grow and build trust not only with your team members but with your customers. Reward great employees that handle customer complaints with ease. This enforces and recognizes great behavior and encourages them to repeat that great interaction and remain calm during all customer situations.  Call Pinnacle Hospitality Consulting today or fill out the form below to schedule a complimentary consult to see how mystery shoppers can audit your complaint processes and customer service!

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