Background Shape

How to Handle Customer Complaints: A Guide to Exceptional Customer Service

Tobias Roelen-Blasberg
Tobias Roelen-Blasberg
Co-Founder & Head of Product
Learn how to master customer service and handle complaints with our comprehensive guide. Discover why addressing complaints is essential and gain insights into effective strategies for the hospitality and restaurant industries.
How to Handle Customer Complaints: A Guide to Exceptional Customer Service

In today's highly competitive business landscape, providing exceptional customer service is essential for maintaining a positive reputation and building lasting customer relationships. One crucial aspect of delivering outstanding customer service is effectively handling customer complaints, be it offline or online. In this blog, we'll explore the importance of addressing customer complaints, outline a step-by-step guide on handling them, and provide specific strategies for handling complaints in the hotel and restaurant industries.

What is good customer service?

At its core, good customer service involves providing customers a seamless and satisfying experience. It goes beyond simply fulfilling transactions; it's about building trust, loyalty, and a sense of value for your customers. Timely responses, personalized interactions, and addressing customer concerns are key to excellent customer service.

While good customer service is essential for all types of businesses, it's especially crucial for the hospitality and restaurant industry. A big part of their offers rely on customer experience–hotel guests and diners wouldn't really appreciate their accommodation and food without good customer service. For this reason, these industries must master the art of providing great customer service, specifically handling customer complaints.

Why is it important to handle customer complaints?

Customer complaints are not inherently negative. In fact, they present valuable opportunities for improvement and growth. Despite this, their negative effects on businesses are undeniable.

Here are the top three reasons why companies should implement a seamless process for handling customer complaints:

Maintain a positive reputation

Customer complaints can spread quickly through word of mouth, online reviews, and social media. Complaints can tarnish a company's reputation if they are not addressed promptly and effectively. This is especially crucial in the digital age, as 76% of consumers claim they always read online reviews before purchasing a product or a service.

On the other hand, satisfactorily resolving complaints demonstrates that the company cares about its customers and their concerns, which can lead to a positive reputation. For restaurants, a slight change in their Yelp score and a single positive review can immediately bring a 9% increase in revenue–this is how powerful a positive online reputation is.

Build a loyal customer base

81% of people claim that receiving good customer service makes them more likely to make another purchase. On the other hand, 86% of consumers immediately quit doing business with a company due to a negative experience.

screenshot sample complaint google my business restaurant listing
Sample of a complaint posted to a Google My Business restaurant listing.

Addressing complaints shows customers that they are valued and taken seriously. When customers feel heard, and their issues are resolved, they are more likely to become loyal to the brand. Loyal customers not only continue to make purchases, but they also act as advocates, referring others to the company and contributing to its growth.

Maintain a competitive edge

Customer feedback, even complaints, is the most authentic consumer insight companies can get. They open up avenues of improvement, which businesses may not be able to recognize with simple market research. Furthermore, knowing how your customer thinks gives you the means to better service them. This will lessen the risk of losing them to your competitors.

How to handle customer complaints?

Handling customer complaints depends on the gravity of the issue raised; there really is no one-size-fits-all technique. However, here are some general customer service etiquette that may help businesses in handling customer complaints:

Acknowledge and listen to the complaint.

When addressing the complaint, business owners and managers should first acknowledge the validity of their concerns. When a customer raises a complaint, give them your full attention. Let them express their concerns without interruption. Active listening demonstrates that you value their perspective and are genuinely interested in resolving the issue.

Maintain an apologetic yet professional tone.

Even if the complaint isn't entirely warranted, apologize for the inconvenience or negative experience the customer has faced. A sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing tense situations and building rapport. However, remember that you should also maintain a professional demeanor. Avoid being too submissive or passive, as it may give the impression that your team doesn't have an existing process for resolving customer complaints.

Take note of all the details of the complaint.

Document the complaint's details, including the customer's name, contact information, and a clear issue description. This information will be invaluable for addressing the complaint effectively and preventing similar issues in the future. Note that giving faulty resolutions to customer complaints may fuel the fire, increasing customer dissatisfaction.

Discuss possible resolutions with your team and then with the customer.

Complaint resolution is not just a one-way communication. Business owners and managers should listen to both their customer and their team. This will give you a complete view of the issue raised. Discuss possible resolutions with your team after listening to the customer's complaint.

Engaging the customer in a constructive conversation about resolving the issue is also essential. Offer potential solutions and ask for their input on how they would like the situation to be resolved. Collaborative problem-solving shows that you value their input and are committed to finding a satisfactory outcome.

Respond quickly.

Time is of the essence when dealing with customer complaints. 37% of customers say that their negative experience with a business is mostly attributed to slow response time. It's crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent further frustration and show your commitment to resolving problems promptly. However, remember that the accuracy and quality of your resolution should never be sacrificed for timeliness.

To learn more about how important time is when responding to customers, read our article How to save time when replying to hotel reviews?


Keep your promises.

If you commit to the customer during the resolution process, follow through on them. While this may sound like a common practice among businesses, you may be surprised to know that 60% of companies breaking promises to their customers repeatedly do so.

Failing to deliver on promises can erode trust and exacerbate the initial issue. This will increase the frustration of your customer, which may push them to spread the word about their negative experience.

Follow up with the customer.

After implementing a solution, follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction. Send an email, social media message, SMS, or even take time to call them. This extra step demonstrates your dedication to their well-being and can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

How do you handle customer complaints in the hospitality industry?

As mentioned a while ago, handling hotel guest complaints is a bit more crucial in comparison with other forms of business. Regardless of how impressive the location and facilities of a hotel are, if it doesn't provide exceptional customer service, travelers would likely skip their business when booking an accommodation.

screenshot sample well-written reply guest complaint hotel google reviews
Sample of a well-written reply to a guest complaint on Google Reviews.

To enhance the guest experience and effectively manage customer complaints, it is crucial to ensure that the front desk staff are thoroughly trained in handling such situations with empathy and professionalism. They can address guest concerns sensitively and attentively by equipping the staff with the necessary communication skills, active listening, and problem-solving techniques. When issues arise, offering appropriate alternatives, such as room changes or upgrades, demonstrates a proactive approach to resolving the problem and showcasing the establishment's commitment to guest satisfaction.

Moreover, recognizing the inconvenience caused by a complaint and taking steps to rectify the situation, such as providing compensation or additional amenities, serves as a goodwill gesture that alleviates immediate dissatisfaction and fosters positive guest relationships in the long run. By combining empathetic training, alternative solutions, and thoughtful gestures of goodwill, the establishment can turn potentially negative experiences into opportunities to showcase their dedication to exceptional customer service.

To learn more about how you can improve your hotel services, read our article Gain Insights and Enhance Your Hotel Services with Guest Feedback

How to handle customer complaints in restaurants?

For restaurants, handling diner complaints is as important as having a scrumptious menu. Without an excellent dining experience, customers won't be able to enjoy their food.

screenshot sample well-written response restaurant complaint
Sample of a well-written response to customer complaint for a restaurant.

A key aspect of ensuring customer satisfaction in the dining experience is training servers to listen and actively address customer concerns. By emphasizing effective communication and empathetic listening skills, servers can create a more welcoming and understanding environment for diners to express their preferences or dissatisfaction. In situations where meals fall short of expectations, offering solutions like meal replacements or adjustments showcases a commitment to quality and reflects a genuine willingness to meet individual needs.

Suppose a customer expresses dissatisfaction. Providing discounts or complimentary items goes beyond rectifying the immediate issue. In that case, it shows a proactive effort to regain trust and loyalty, effectively turning a negative experience into a positive one. This comprehensive approach, encompassing attentive training, adaptable solutions, and thoughtful gestures of appeasement, fosters a favorable reputation for the establishment and establishes enduring customer relationships based on care and responsiveness.

To learn about how restaurant owners can maintain a positive online reputation, read our article Responding to Negative Restaurant Reviews: How to Protect Your Reputation

Respond to online customer complaints efficiently with MARA

Responding to online customer complaints can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be with our AI Review Assistant, MARA. This intuitive tool is designed to ease your Online Reputation Management process, making it more efficient, personalized, and time-saving. It offers the best and most personalized AI for responding to and analyzing your guest reviews.

Easy review monitoring with Review Inbox

Complaint management starts with proper review monitoring. Missing out on a single complaint can be significantly detrimental to your brand.

One of the key features of this tool is the Review Inbox. Your review inbox makes responding to reviews as simple as hitting "Generate reply" and clicking "Send". The Review Inbox connects to multiple review sources, including Google,, and Tripadvisor, giving you a panoramic view of all your reviews. And you can even configure review response automation: Why not allow MARA to automatically respond to simple reviews, like 5-star Google reviews with no text, ensuring you never miss a review? Daily notifications about new reviews keep you updated and in control.

MARA Review Inbox
Streamlined Review Inbox.

Extracting customer insights through Review Analytics

Gathering customer insights is one positive side of gathering customer complaints. Through these data, you can improve your services and offer to further improve customer satisfaction.

To help you understand and analyze the multitude of reviews, the Review Assistant also incorporates Review Analytics. This provides actionable, easy-to-understand insights that are tailored exclusively to your business. With MARA, you can quickly get the gist of all your reviews without needing to read each one. The analysis is so detailed that you can find out about specific issues like "the water in the pool is too cold" or "lack of vegan breakfast options”. These insights help optimize the guest experience without requiring you to be a data expert.

MARA Review Analytics
The easiest way to extract customer insights.

The most personal response AI

Adding personal touch when responding to customer complaint is critical, as it helps you re-establish your connection with your customers.

Fortunately, MARA's AI isn't just about efficiency; it's about personalization too. The Brand Voice feature allows the AI to adapt to your tone, making sure your responses sound authentically you. Plus, with Smart Snippets, you can "teach" the AI how to respond to recurring praises or complaints. Your AI then incorporates this information into its responses, but always with different words, providing more personalized, relevant replies.

This review response assistant has quickly become a game-changer for over 2000 customers. Its promising capacity to elevate your overall rating, amplify response rates, glean insights from customer feedback, and economize both time and money is the reason behind its growing popularity.

Final Thought

Handling customer complaints effectively is a vital skill for businesses across industries. Embracing complaints as opportunities for growth and improvement can increase customer loyalty and enhance brand reputation.

Managing online customer complaints need not be an overwhelming task. With the appropriate software, not only can you streamline the process, but you can also personalize your responses, and derive valuable insights from the reviews. So, why hesitate to give our AI Review Assistant, MARA, a try? It's completely free for testing, doesn't require a credit card, and can be fully operational in less than five minutes.

This post is part of our hero content series on “How to Use Online Reviews to Your Advantage – The Ultimate Guide".

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is customer handling skills?

Customer handling skills encompass effective communication, empathy, active listening, and problem-solving abilities, essential for providing excellent customer service and addressing concerns.

What is the best way to handle customer complaints?

The best approach to handling customer complaints is to actively listen to the issue, show empathy, and provide a prompt and appropriate solution, all while maintaining professionalism. Following up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction can enhance the resolution process.

How do you handle customer complaints to employees?

When addressing customer complaints related to employees, gather information, discuss the issue privately with the employee, provide feedback and coaching as needed, and encourage open communication to prevent future issues.

How do you handle an angry customer?

Managing an angry customer involves maintaining composure, empathizing with their frustration, actively listening to their concerns, and offering a solution or involving a higher authority if necessary, all while remaining professional and courteous.

What is the best way to avoid customer complaints?

To minimize customer complaints, consistently deliver high-quality products or services, communicate clearly with customers about expectations, provide employee training in customer service, and proactively solicit feedback and address potential issues before they escalate.

Reply with AI - the best-kept secret of leading businesses.

review AI for Westin hotels
review AI for Radisson hotels
logo steigenberger
review AI for Accor hotels
review AI for Moevenpick hotels
review AI for Best Western hotels
review AI for Leonardo hotels
review AI for Sheraton hotels
No credit card required 

Related articles:

Loader 3 dots