Back to Blog
How to handle customer complaints about your service business

How to Handle Customer Complaints About Your Service Business

Responding to customer complaints isn’t just about addressing grievances, it’s about something much larger: the customer experience. 

How you handle customer complaints online or in-person extends way beyond that individual. 

It reflects on your service business.  

In fact, it’s been reported that Americans will tell 15 people about a bad customer service experience

Think about the last time you had a poor customer service experience.How did it make you feel about that business?

Probably not too great, right?

So let’s avoid this costly mistake and dive right into how to handle customer complaints about your service business. 

How To Handle Customer Complaints In 9 Steps:

How to handle customer complaints in nine steps
How to handle customer complaints in nine steps

Step 1. Stay Calm When Handling Customer Complaints 

Your natural reaction to a customer service complaint may be to get defensive.

Don’t.

It’s not a personal attack on you, but on the situation. 

Rather than getting confrontational and letting your emotions get the better of you, remain calm. 

Remember, you’re representing your service business, so how you respond to a complaint speaks volumes. 

Step 2. Listen To Customer Complaints 

Your customers want to feel heard and know that they’re a priority.

It seems simple, but when handling a customer complaint, spend time listening to the details of the issue. 

Get in touch either over the phone (this is preferable to email) to allow your customer to share their grievances.

This lets the customer know you care since you’re taking time out of your day to understand and address how they’re feeling.  

As your customer explains, be empathetic and listen more than you speak

How to deal with customer complaints: take responsibility and acknowledge customers
How to deal with customer complaints: take responsibility and acknowledge customers

Step 3. Take Responsibility And Acknowledge Customer Service Complaints

One of the least effective things you can do when a customer has a complaint is to make excuses.

It’s much more effective and beneficial for the relationship if you take responsibility, regardless of who was wrong.

It doesn’t matter what the “real reason” is.

Whether they’re upset about a specific employee or one of your policies, do your best to acknowledge the customer’s complaint. 

Step 4. Apologize And Thank The Customer For Bringing Their Concern To Your Attention

Some customers are really just looking for an apology; a verbal acknowledgement of their frustration. 

So don’t be afraid to offer them one. 

According to the Nottingham School of Economics, unhappy customers are willing to forgive companies more if an apology is offered, rather than being compensated. 

Be warned, though: you’ve got to make it sincere!

Try to find that line between apologetic and appreciative. 

Something like, “I’m sorry X happened, but thank you for bringing this to our attention”. 

After all, they’re giving you a chance to remedy the situation and reflect on how you can improve your business!

Step 5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions About The Complaint

Details are important!

How can you get to the root of the complaint if you don’t have the full picture?

Consider asking open-ended questions about the customer complaint like:

  • What do you mean by that?
  • Could you provide an example?
  • Could you expand on that a little further?

Don’t be afraid to reiterate what the customer said:

  • To be clear, this is what happened…
  • If I understand correctly…
  • I just want to clarify some details…

Be aware of your tone when asking questions or reiterating. You don’t want to come across as rude or confrontational. 

Handle customer service complaints politely and civilly. 

How to deal with customer complaints: offer solutions to customers
How to deal with customer complaints: offer solutions to customers

Step 6. Offer A Solution To The Customer Service Complaint

When it comes to resolving customer complaints, it’s not enough to just listen and nod. 

You’ve got to present a solution. 

Considering one of the following: 

  • Providing a gift card or discount on a future service 
  • Completing the work to their satisfaction
  • A partial or full refund depending on the severity of the issue 

Here’s an example of how to respond to a complaint: 

Problem: You own a beauty salon and a customer isn’t happy with their manicure from one of your staff. 

Solution: Offer to redo the manicure free of charge or provide a discount on a future manicure with another service provider.

Keep in mind that the solution offered should be within your service business’s guidelines. You don’t want to make promises you can’t commit to, that’ll only make things worse!

Step 7. Log The Customer Service Complaint

Keep a detailed record of customer service complaints using a spreadsheet or software like Jira

Use these records to identify potential service weaknesses and improve future appointments.

Step 8. Follow Up On The Customer Complaint

According to Forum Corporation, 70% of customers churn because of poor customer service. 

One way to reduce this (especially after a customer complaint) is to follow up with customers. 

Something as simple as an email or survey is often enough to show customers that you care. 

Here’s a general template for a follow up email from Acquire:

Hi [Customer name],

I’m very sorry you had this experience. It’s always important for us to [mention the situation the customer referred to]. We acknowledge that we failed you this time by [re-state the customer complaint].

This was likely caused by [add brief explanation], but, regardless, we should have handled this better.

I’ve passed this on to my team – we’ll make sure we use this experience to grow and learn as a team. Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help.

I apologize again for any inconvenience.

[Your name]

Check out this template in action in response to a mobile nail tech that arrived late for an appointment:

Hi Lily,

I’m very sorry you had this experience. It’s always important for us to arrive at clients' homes on time. 

We acknowledge that we failed you this time by running 30 minutes late. 

This was likely caused by a booking oversight, but regardless, we should have handled this better.

I’ve passed this on to my team – we’ll make sure we use this experience to grow and learn as a team. Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help.

I apologize again for any inconvenience.

Jane, Mobile Salon Owner

Ideally, you should have upper management follow up within 24-48 hours

This shows customers that they’re a priority!

Use complaints as a learning tool to improve the customer experience
Use complaints as a learning tool to improve the customer experience

Step 9. Improve The Customer Experience

It’s okay if your service business gets customer complaints every now and then. 

It’s what you do with this input that matters. 

Will you chalk it down to an irrational customer or use this as an opportunity to make improvements to your operations and customer service?

Be proactive, not reactive. 

How to improve the customer experience, example A

The problem: You own a home services business and a customer leaves a two-star rating for a plumber who fixed a clogged pipe.

What to do: Use the review software to get that customer’s information, then get in touch and see why they weren’t happy with the service.

Takeaway: Learn from the complaint to ensure another customer doesn’t experience the same issue again. 

How to improve the customer experience, example B

The problem: A customer is upset because one of your mobile music teachers showed up late to the appointment.

What to do: Consider why your team member was late. Could they have been delayed because the previous customer's home was significantly further away? If the teacher didn’t account for travel time, this could happen again.

Takeaway: Use this customer service complaint to improve team routing.

The customer experience isn’t static. While customer complaints are never fun to hear, they can provide insight into how you can improve the customer experience. 

Tips On How To Handle Customer Complaints

Respond to customer service complaints by creating a complaint procedure
Respond to customer service complaints by creating a complaint procedure

Tip #1- Create a Customer Complaint Handling Procedure

The best way to handle customer complaints is to have a procedure in place for when they do happen.

It may take some upfront work to develop a customer complaint process, but it can have real benefits for your service business in the long run if all employees are on the same page.

As you develop your customer complaint handling procedure, consider the following:

  • Ensure the procedure guides your team through specific response strategies 
  • Keep the emphasis on high-quality service
  • Provide your team with ways to troubleshoot complaints before they become bigger issues
  • Assign a team member to regularly respond to customer reviews online 

We recommend asking these guiding questions when developing a complaint procedure:

  • When customer complaints arise, what kinds of solutions will you offer to the customer?
  • Which team member(s) will handle the complaint? What is the chain of escalation?
  • Is there a way to address the issue before the customer leaves a bad review online?

To keep your process up-to-date, make sure you regularly document and review the procedures during staff onboarding and training sessions.

Why it’s Important to Have a Customer Complaint Procedure

What customers say about your service business matters. 

This is why being equipped to handle customer complaints is critical to improving online business ratings. It will keep the reputation of your business intact, so you can avoid public relations nightmares.  

Smart handling of customer complaints will also give you a leg up; when potential customers search for services online, they won’t be turned off to choosing you over the competition. 

Tip #2- Stay On the Same Team as Your Customers

We all know it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so before you go burning bridges, take a deep breath and think carefully about your response. 

Afterall, if the customer is already agitated, what good will challenging their complaint do?

Focusing on working together to find a solution.

As we outlined above, stay calm, listen, take responsibility, and apologize. 

Tip #3- Move On From The Customer Service Complaint

Our last tip on how to deal with customer complaints is to stay positive!

It’s easy to let a negative experience ruin your day. 

While we recommend documenting all customer complaints, it’s also good practice to keep a record of positive customer interactions

Platforms like MarketBox enable customers to leave reviews at the end of service experiences, which you can leverage to track positive interactions. 

That way, when customer complaints do happen, you’ve got a nice reminder that you’re still doing well!

However, if your service business is getting customer complaints regularly, it might be time to reflect on why and how you’re going to remedy this. 

How to handle customer complaints like a champ
How to handle customer complaints like a champ

How To Handle Customer Complaints Like A Champ

Handling customer complaints can be tough. 

It requires a lot of patience and even more foresight on how your response could affect your service business. 

That’s why having a customer complaint procedure will give you and your service providers a systematic way of handling complaints. 

Be sure to keep the nine steps on how to handle customer complaints in mind the next time something arises. 

And don’t forget to log both negative and positive customer interactions. 

Remember, be proactive when it comes to customer service complaints!


Book a demo with MarketBox to discover how to improve your customer complaint procedures.

Share on social media: 
Stay up to date with the latest news, tips and resources .
We will never share your email address with third parties.

More from the Blog

Software maintenance costs and factors

Considering custom software? Here’s what you need to know about software maintenance

If you’re considering bespoke software, make sure you understand the various factors that contribute to software maintenance costs. And understand the difference between off the shelf software and custom development.

Read Story
Email Marketing
Getting Started

Advantages of Using Email Marketing for Service Businesses

In this post, we're sharing the advantages of using email marketing or your service business. Discover best practices for using email to stay connected with your leads and customers.

Read Story
How to Ask Customers For Reviews for Service Businesses

How to Ask Customers for Reviews for Your Service Business

In this blog post, we're sharing best practices and approaches on how to ask customers for reviews for your service business.

Read Story