How to resolve a complaint from an online shopper

How you react to negative communication, and respond to the feedback, can have a huge impact on how your brand is perceived.

Wholesale pricing strategy

Whether you’re selling hundreds of items a day or just generate a few orders per week, as an ecommerce business you are bound to have to deal with a complaint or two at some point.

Ultimately, you won’t be able to make everybody happy, no matter how airtight your operations are. However, it’s not necessarily the action/inaction triggering the complaint that can cause problems for your business – it’s how you react to the negative communication, and respond to the feedback, that can have the biggest impact on how your brand is perceived. Here’s our four-step process for handling negative feedback from a customer.

1. Go into the situation with the right frame of mind.

Although it’s never nice to receive a complaint from a customer, this person is actually probably doing you a favour: for every one person that complains, it is thought that there are 26 others who didn’t say anything, the majority of which will just quietly decide not to return.

This person may have alerted you to a wider problem, and handed you two opportunities:

First – to win back their trust, and their repeat business;

Second – to address an issue you may not have known about before.


2. Acknowledge the complaint.

You may need some time to look into the issue your customer has raised. In the meantime, let them know that you’ve heard/read their complaint and will be back in touch in a timely manner.

If the complaint is made publicly, whether on social media or in an online review:

  • Don’t delete the complaint – this won’t go unnoticed, just lead to further backlash
  • Ask the author to write to you privately – reply with a neutral acknowledgement, do not address the complaint in a public reply, or match their negative tone, as tempting as it might be sometimes! Prepare a standardised message you can use in this situation.

3. Assess and investigate.

Make sure that you understand the complaint and the products and services that caused the problem or complaint to occur. Try to consider the complaint from the customer’s perspective, and how you would be feeling if you were in the customer’s situation?

Has the customer explained what they expect from you and how they feel you can put it right? If not, what do you think you need to do to put things back in the customer’s favour?

Establish whether it was a human error, a technical issue or a procedural fault. Where in the supply chain did the issue originate, and what needs to happen to reduce/eliminate the probability of it happening again?

4. Respond to your customer.

Once the investigation has been completed explain to the customer why what happened to them happened and how this differed to the norm. People accept that mistakes happen and if this is the case, being honest about it often reassures the customer that you are a reputable company.

Confirm the steps you’ve introduced to stop it happening in the future. Although this will not affect their current experience, they at least are more likely to buy from you again with the reassurance that they will not have the same ordering experience.

Confirm how you have/will put it right. You don’t want to leave a customer thinking that they have been short changed, but give too much away and you risk being taken advantage of in the future. It is always better to err on the generous side, especially if you have made a mistake. At the very least a customer should be compensated for costs and inconvenience caused.

5. Learn from the complaint.

Obviously! You’ve investigated what led to your complaint, so make changes to your process where relevant and viable. Even if you suspect your customer might be wrong, maybe the wording on your website isn’t clear enough, or there’s room to make a good system better still.

Outsourcing your fulfilment can help to keep your customers happy.

By partnering with a fulfilment provider it is easier to use their expertise and evolved best practice systems to increase customer satisfaction. For example, bar-coding will ensure a reduction in incorrect items being sent out. Full tracking of orders being sent will reassure the client that their order is on its way, and giving them an estimated delivery time will not only reduce missed deliveries but also increase consumer confidence.