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How to turn a customer complaint into a win-win

Disputes with customers can be costly, but a complaint that’s dealt with effectively can actually be an opportunity to help your business.

Through the power of social media, it’s easier than ever for an unhappy customer to cause real damage to your reputation. By approaching a complaint positively and looking at things from a customer’s perspective, you could identify an area for genuine improvement in your business.

Chances are, for every customer who complains, there are several others who are having the same problem but don’t bother saying anything about it.

How to reduce complaints

  • Listen to every customer
  • Know your responsibilities and the rights of your customers
  • Use writer contracts or agreements where appropriate
  • Provide clear terms and conditions
  • Give timeframes and explain any delays
  • Have a complaint-handling system in place and train staff to use it
  • Appoint a complains officer to manage your complaint-handling process
  • Make it easy for customers to provide feedback
  • Track and record complaints so you can identify and fix recurring problems
  • If you sense a dispute from the outset, consider declining the business

How to handle complaints

The key to handling a complaint or dispute is to deal with it as promptly as possible. Even if it’s unclear whether you’ve done anything wrong, it may be better to resolve the issue when the customer is being reasonable. If a customer has taken to social media to complain, quickly get in touch and ask them to call or meet you in order to discuss their issue properly.

It may also be useful to set up a complaint-tracking database, where you can log the date, location, cause, and outcome of every complaint. Reviewing complaints over time can help identify a way to improve a particular aspect of your business, and highlight if a particular staff member or third party provider is associated with most of the complaints.

Remember to keep a record of all correspondence in case the complaint escalates and a regulator or lawyer has to get involved later on.


While you can invest in complaint-tracking software, conduct customer satisfaction surveys or hire a mystery shopper to test your customer service, there are also a range of free resources available to help you deal with complaints.

Check if your industry body has set up a code of conduct that can help guide you, and whether your industry has a prescribed complaint form you must use instead of drawing up your own.

If you’re in the retail industry, download the free MyShopRights app, which provides a quick way to check the rights of both you and your customers.

This content was provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria.  For more information click here

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Gina Baldassarre

Gina Baldassarre

Gina is a journalist at Dynamic Business. She enjoys learning to ice skate and collecting sappy inspirational quotes.

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