5 Common Customer Complaints and How to Handle Them

Written by Kadence Edmonds

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If you ever wanted to know how your business is performing in the purest sense, just ask your customers. Ultimately, their approval is what will help make your business grow and succeed - but, somewhat ironically, so are their complaints. 

While complaints about your business can stir up a mix of emotions for business owners, it is also essential that they are evaluated, and the issues taken on board. By turning the negative comment into constructive criticism, your business can grow and learn from past mistakes. 

Consider complaints like an unofficial business survey. Statistics show that 91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will just leave without complaining, which leaves you no chance of remedying the problem.  

So when a customer complains about something to do with your business, it should be considered as a unique opportunity to improve your customer service and experience which, in turn, can prevent further customer churn.  

We take a look at 5 common customer complaints and how to handle them below. 

Complaints about out of stock or unavailable products

Out of stocks in your store are usually a good sign indicating a decent turnover or a popular item. Additionally, some retailers will leave with gaps in their inventory because they figure shoppers will just opt for a similar substitute. 

However, studies conducted by Harvard Business Review showed that a quarter of shoppers chose to either not purchase the item, or delay the purchase. This means that if the item stays out of stock for a length of time, your customers can become annoyed by the experience leading to a complaint.  

They may demand to be able to specially order the product, constantly seek updates or with competition so high, choose to shop for the item elsewhere. 

How to handle this customer complaint:

Shop owners and managers will understand that there may be a delay in the supply chain, or the item is simply out of stock from the supplier, but customers do not. The best way to handle this situation is by making sure that you keep communication with the customer both honest and open. 

Avoid letting your team respond with haste - by saying the product will be back next week, when they have no idea - and instead make them seek the appropriate answer. As an additional service, tell the customer you will reach out to them when the order arrives.  This type of response will make your customers feel valued and allay their frustration.

Additionally, better inventory management can help reduce the number of out of stocks in your store. Having a good POS system, like Epos Now, to correctly manage inventory levels is crucial. If you want to read more on how to avoid out of stocks in your store, click here

Complaints about long wait times 

This one can relate to a number of issues in your business, long queues at check out, extreme wait times for food, extended hold times on calls or even a long wait for getting a staff member's help. 

Additionally, the dramatic rise in ecommerce and online stores means that long wait times can now also relate to online service response times, order fulfillment and shipping times. 

Research has shown that customers are reluctant to queue for lengths of time, with retailers in the past losing over 20 million potential customers each year. And with high competition, there is potential that these customers are lost for good, as they may purchase elsewhere.  

The bottom line is customers don’t want to wait, and if they have to, it may lead them to complain, or worse not shop with you.

How to handle this customer complaint:

Unfortunately in some instances, the customer will just have to wait due to a number of varying factors that may be out of your control. However, long wait times can indicate a number of issues within your business. 

Regular or ongoing in-store wait times for assistance could mean that you do not have enough staff rostered to handle demand. If this is the case, you may need to consider hiring additional staff members. Alternatively, it could also indicate a slow and outdated check out system. You may need to look at your POS system, and update to an easy to use, cloud-based system, like Epos Now, that can integrate with your payment system.  This can drastically improve check out speeds in store and reduce queues.  

Ecommerce processing times could be due to the amount of manual processing your platform requires, or operating with minimal staff. If you're not integrating your ecommerce system with your POS system it may be time. An integration like the one available with  BigCommerce can reduce manual processing time, make sure stock levels are accurate and help you reach customers 24 x 7, wherever they are. 

Complaints about poor service or staff 

This can happen to any member of your team sometimes due to no fault of their own.  Customers can misinterpret tone, personality, or maybe your staff member could just be having a bad day.  

The problem is when a team member fails to meet the customer’s expectations, some will interpret it to mean a lack of interest or take it as direct rudeness resulting in a complaint.  The truth is there are occasions when this is the truth, or it can also mean that the customer’s expectations are set too high. 

Regardless of the fault, when these instances occur your business’s reputation suffers. 

How to handle this customer complaint:

The numbers show that 56% of people around the world have stopped doing business altogether because of a poor customer service experience, so they need to be taken seriously.  

To combat this, your staff need to be aware of their overall demeanour and be prepared to provide service with an over and above attitude. While general protocol should always be followed, it’s important to remember that if bending these rules can prevent possible customer churn it should be done. 

If the issue is repeatedly happening with one particular staff member, it may be beneficial to provide additional service training to help them handle customer requests better. Additionally, make sure your staff always report issues to management so they can be followed up on and handled appropriately.  

Complaints because of a misunderstanding

Communication with customers can greatly affect your businesses reputation and impact customer loyalty.  Misunderstandings can happen, generally because of a communication breakdown and when dealing with people, these can happen often.

A customer could simply misread a return policy, a staff member could misinterpret a company memo, or a manager may miscommunicate with a consumer. Additionally, customers can easily misinterpret what your staff members say or how they explain a product or service. Because of this, it can lead a customer to accuse your staff of lying. 

How to handle this customer complaint:

The first step is to identify exactly where things are going wrong. It is also wise to remember that the issue could purely come down to the customer, and through no fault of your business. However, working out what you can change will help reduce the impact.  

If this problem is constantly related to written content, it could mean reviewing your company policies to rewrite sections that are repeatedly misinterpreted. Simple changes in grammar can impact greatly on sentiment and readability. 

If verbal communication is the issue then implementing different service protocols or retraining staff may be key.  Staff may need to work on their active listening skills and improve their speaking skills. 

Complaints about poor products or services

If the product breaks or the service under delivers you can count on a customer to complain.  In some instances the product won’t be broken, but rather the customer doesn’t understand how to use it correctly. Other times, the customer may regret their purchase decision and try to claim it as faulty. 

When it comes to services, they could have been over-promised and under-delivered, or the customer just isn’t a good fit with it. More often than not, these complaints will turn into a blame game against your business.

But regardless of how the customer arrives at this conclusion, it’s important to prevent it from turning them to your competition. 

How to handle this customer complaint: 

If not dealt with appropriately, poor product complaints can get well out of hand. With services like the Commerce Commission on the consumer's side in New Zealand, customers can easily submit a complaint directly against your business if you don’t remedy their issue appropriately.  

Firstly, if the product is not broken, take the time and educate the customer on how to appropriately use it. This kind of customer service goes a long way to helping them understand where they went wrong, and may potentially turn them into a loyal customer. 

If the product is in fact broken, you may need to determine how that happened then work on options to either immediately replace or refund the item.  

If there is an ongoing issue with the service you provide, you may need to conduct an overall review of processes or staff completing the service.  

Speed up check out and improve customer experience with Epos Now

Epos Now provides point of sale systems solutions for businesses across the world. But we are much more than just a POS hardware company.   Our software solutions can help your business to streamline your in store checkout process, seamlessly integrate with payment providers for contactless processing and help manage inventory. 

Call today to learn more about our hardware and software solutions.

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