Interacting with customers online can often present a unique set of challenges. Because you likely will not have the opportunity to speak to these customers face to face, it can be very easy for your message to get lost in translation. Knowing how to handle online customer complaints will present an even greater challenge.

Without an effective strategy to handle your customer’s complaints, you may end up losing business or—possibly even worse—your customers may leave a bad review for your company online. While you obviously don’t want your business to be taken advantage of, it will be crucial to handle these delicate situations with care.

In this article, we will discuss some of the most effective ways your business can handle customer complaints online. By being proactive and staying ahead of customer problems before they begin to get too serious, your business can continue operating without any major interruptions.


1. Pay Attention to Everything Each Customer Says

If you are listening to (or reading messages from) a customer who is very upset, it can be very tempting to tune out the things they have to say and simply nod and smile. However, even if it seems the customer is being unreasonable, they are still offering you a significant amount of insight. By paying attention to each specific complaint, you will be in a position to find a solution both parties can find acceptable. Developing active listening skills will also help show the customer that you actually care about what they have to say.


2. Remember the Old Cliché, “The Customer is Always Right”

The phrase “the customer is always right” is a tired cliché and is one that—at least for anyone who has worked in customer service for long—appears to be rather tongue in cheek. However, clichés are cliché for a reason. Finding a new customer can be as many as ten times more expensive than selling to an existing customer; because of this, anyone who has already established themselves as a customer will need to be treated with special care.

Even if the customer appears to be “wrong” about what they are specifically saying, accepting what they have to say as “right” will ultimately be in your business’ best financial interest. While offering a $25 remedy to your customer’s complaints is probably something your business hopes to avoid, it may end up improving your bottom line if it enables your business to keep an existing customer in play.


3. Be Willing to Give More Than What is Fair

If your business is operating in the digital space, replying to complaints may be the only direct interaction you ever have with a customer. Because of this, every complaint needs to be treated even more delicately. Offering more than what you think is “fair” will help create the sort of lasting impressions your business needs to succeed. For example, instead of simply offering a refund, offer a refund as well as a discount on a future purchase. If someone has an exceptionally good experience while having their complaints managed, they may even recommend your business to a friend.


4. Offer a Clear and Direct Apology

If there is one thing you should never underestimate, it is the value of a genuine apology. When managing complaints online, it can be very easy to lose the “human element” that allows you to connect with a customer. Apologizing is something that not only helps you demonstrate a sense of humility—it is also free. Instead of beating around the bush and saying things such as “The company apologizes”, “I am sorry that this made you feel this way”, or giving any other message that is not completely direct, a simple “I am sorry. We will do everything we can to make things right” will usually suffice.


5. Get Feedback

In order for your business to determine if it has been handling customer complaints in an effective and amicable way, it will need to hear things from the customer’s perspective. Though you will have to accept that people are more likely to give feedback when they’ve had an unpleasant experience, asking for feedback is one of the surest ways your business can improve. Following your interaction with a customer, consider finding ways to ask about their experience and ask if there is anything you could have done differently. Offering an incentive (such as a small gift card to your store) may help improve the number of replies you receive.


6. Follow Up

It is important to remember that any interaction you have with a customer will be a part of an ongoing relationship. Maintaining a healthy relationship will require your business to consistently demonstrate an ability to satisfy your customer’s needs. It will likely be a good idea to reach out to each customer a week or so after they’ve filed a complaint in order to see how they are doing and if there is anything else you can do to help. This will also help spawn a subtle reminder that your business cares about them and is willing to go out of its way to make its customers happy.



Dealing with customer complaints is something few people want to do, yet, it is something that will inevitably come up throughout the course of doing business. Though knowing how to handle online customer complaints will require some practice and experience, these helpful tips can help you manage each of your essential customer relationships with ease.

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Andrew Paniello | Andrew attended the University of Colorado and earned degrees in Finance and Political Science (Philosophy minor). He is currently a freelance writer with a primary emphasis on business topics. In his free time, Andrew enjoys playing piano, painting, hiking, and playing basketball.