How to handle customer complaints? 6 tips you must know

MAY 10, 20219 MIN READ
How to handle customer complaints? 6 tips you must know

For business owners, customer complaints are synonymous with nightmares. Unhappy customers can cost your business more than you think! Did you know that 51% of buyers drop out of the customer base after merely one negative experience1? And US companies pay a high price for bad customer experiences — they lose more than $62 billion annually.

Sounds pretty awful, huh? Yet, in every crisis lies the seeds of opportunity. If you're able to deal with customer complaints successfully, you're probably turning dissatisfied customers into your loyal fans2. After all, a positive experience matters a lot when it comes to customer retention.

Continue reading to grasp the key to turning your nightmares into sweet dreams. We've summarized 4 common types of customer complaints and worked out 6 tips to handle them smartly and strategically.

Why customer complaints matter

Before we cut to the chase, it's important to understand the significance of customer complaints. Yes, complaints can drive you to the edge, and they are inevitable. So, you may wonder how exactly you can benefit from such a seemingly negative situation?

The answer is simple — Discover its silver lining!

Complaints are a double-edged knife: If you use it well, you can generate more profits in the long run. A study by Harvard Business Review3 shows that a response to complaints can increase customers' (even the frustrated ones) willingness to pay later. If you solved an issue successfully, you could even add value to your business.

Remember, customer retention is more beneficial than acquisition, as existing customers spend 31% more than new customers4. By handling complaints in the right way, you can reduce customer churn effectively, and even turn the originally upset customers into your business advocates.

What's more, customer complaints are insights for improvements. Receiving complaints from upset customers may imply that there may be something wrong with your products or services. Try to find out any room for improvements by investigating complaints thoroughly. That's how you can improve and thrive continuously.

4 common types of customer complaints

Let's have a look at some common customer complaints:


Customers often complained about getting poor services during their purchase journey (including after-sales). They may need to wait for a long time to get support, and by then, they already lose their interest in your offerings. Or they feel they were treated like numbers rather than humans. So, make sure your customer service team provides timely and personal support (see our complaint handling tips for more information).

Customer service is a deciding factor for 90% of consumers when picking a seller5. We remember how we feel in an experience more than other details (in e-commerce, they may be the price or the product itself). When a customer feels disrespected or unvalued during their interaction with you, they are probably not coming back again.

What's worse is that 96% of customers DON'T bother to complain at all, and 91% of them simply switch vendors6! So, when your customers complain about your service, do treat it as a valuable asset for improvement. Grasp this opportunity to understand how your customers feel about your offerings.


Another aspect customers often feel dissatisfied about is the availability of diverse payment methods. They may be upset about the lack of their preferred payment method. They may also be concerned about checkout safety. Imagine you're buying in bulk from a supplier, and the only payment method they provide is rather insecure for you. Wouldn't you feel discouraged? accepts an array of payment methods, from PayPal to bank transfer (T/T) and line of credit. We've also launched an exclusive credit/debit card processing system called Secure Payment (formerly Escrow) by tapping into AliPay. Alibaba will keep the money and release it to you when your customer confirms receipt of goods.

This system gives peace of mind to both you and your customers: You're assured that the money is there, and your customers feel safe that they won't fall for scams or frauds by knowing the money will only be sent to the buyer after they confirm everything is OK.


Why hasn't my order arrived? This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions from customers. Your clients may choose to stay silent and simply leave when they get poor customer services or cannot use their preferred payment method. But when it comes to delivery issues, most customers would voice out their dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, transportation is something you don't have absolute control over as an online business owner. But this doesn't mean you cannot help your customers at all. Try to track the shipment or contact your logistics company directly. And double-check the delivery details with your customers: make sure they didn't provide incorrect addresses. If yes, help rectify the situation! Your customers will be grateful.

To ease your burden, provides reliable and fast global shipping solutions, empowering you to have full visibility and control over your shipments with trackable delivery services and real-time updates. You can also have your shipments insured with Trade Assurance.


Have you ever bought something online and found that the actual product looked completely different? What's your feeling at that moment? Upset. That's why you should try to provide accurate product details. You can leverage's live stream feature, 360 views, and product videos to provide a realistic and holistic view of your products. Photo reviews from other buyers also help showcase your products. You can also offer some incentives to encourage your buyers to post photos in their reviews.

If you're receiving multiple complaints about the same product, you may want to look into the matter. This is where you can elevate your offerings. Your customers may complain about the shortcomings of your products. For example, if their shoppers need to moisturize their hands after using your hand wash products, try to find a moisturizing hand sanitizer. That's how you set yourself apart from your competitors.

6 Tips to Handle Customer Complaints

After going through some common complaints, you may be able to minimize potential complaints by refining your services (remember, prevention is always better than cure!). That being said, it's impossible to eliminate all dissatisfaction, as you cannot please everyone. So, what should you do when you receive a complaint from an angry customer?

Be responsive

Rapid problem resolution is a major customer service expectation. A McKinsey study suggests that lack of speed in interactions with suppliers is the number one pain point for B2B decision makers7. Show your customers you care by responding to them rapidly. Even a simple receipt acknowledgment would help. NEVER ignore unhappy customers, as running away from your problems will never fix anything.

The average customer expects to have their issues solved within 5 minutes by phone, within 1 hour by social media, and within around 24 hours by email8. If you've set up a page for your business on social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), remember to have your customer service team monitor those platforms and manage feedback and complaints.

If you sell on, you can tap into its live chat tool TradeManager to interact with your buyers. You can set auto-reply when you're away or busy, so that your customers don't feel neglected. And you can get all the tools you need for communications in one place — our AliSuppliers app. By leveraging the seller-oriented app, you can stay connected with your customers anytime, anywhere.

Acknowledge what your customers say

As mentioned before, customer complaints can be great assets for improvements. Listen carefully and collect all the facts you need to solve their problems. Never challenge your customers or fight back even when they're wrong, as this will only make them more irritated. Instead, acknowledge their problem sincerely, and move on to the next point — apologize.

Show empathy and understanding to diffuse the tension. Try to say something like "so, if I understand you correctly" or "I'm so sorry that you feel this way". Take ownership to let your customers feel heard and supported. Arguing with your customers is the last thing you want to do.

Try to gather as many details as possible to get a comprehensive view of their problems. If there is really something wrong with your products or services, take this opportunity to refine your services. Remember, valid complaints can provide invaluable insights into the quality of your products or services.

Apologize (also express your gratitude)

The power of apology is greater than you think. Research by The Nottingham School of Economics9shows that:

Compared to offering compensations, dissatisfied customers are more willing to forgive a company that offers an apology.

45% of customers withdrew their negative evaluation for a company in light of an apology (while only 23% did so in return for compensation).

Therefore, put your emotions aside and offer a sincere apology immediately (even when the faults are not on your part). Don't make excuses or shift blame as defenses to avoid ownership. This will only make things worse.

Also, thank your customers for pointing out the issues to you. Make them feel appreciated and valued. This is what keeps customers going back again and again. However, your complaint handling process does not end here.

Work out the right solution

Act on your customers' opinions to show them you're dedicated to offering the best experience to them. Give your customer support team the authority to offer compensation to unhappy customers directly and immediately without having to escalate an issue to supervisors. You can provide a refund or coupon for future purchases (so as to encourage them to come back!).

Personalize your solutions to find the right fit for your customers. For example, when a customer says that the products do not meet their expectations, you can offer to provide samples for them next time and lower the MOQ to give them more confidence to buy with you. If the product is damaged or has quality issues, offer them a replacement.

A tailor-made solution works better than merely offering refunds/coupons/gift cards every single time. After all, one size cannot fit all when it comes to customer services.

Follow up to bring your service to the next level

Send a message or call them in person afterward to follow up with your customers. See if they are satisfied with the solution, and if their problems are really solved. You can involve someone in upper management to show that your company truly cares. You can also ask your employees to sign their names or even to send a handwritten note to your customers.

When your customers provide you insights into improving products/services in their complaints, you may not be able to showcase the results to them straight away as it takes time to refine things. But when it's done, keep your customers informed of this, because they play a role in your improvement. Surprise and delight them by showing that you value customer feedback.

These simple gestures can add a final touch to your service, taking your business to the next level of success. This can also help enhance customer satisfaction and build a trusting relationship.

Follow netiquette rules

As you're most probably interacting with your customers via live chats or email with today's technology, your customers cannot see your facial expression and body language, nor can they hear your tone. Words are the only means of communication in online communications. Therefore, pay extra attention to your language:

  • Try to say “Sir/Madam/Miss” instead of “Honey/Sweetie”
  • Try to say “Hello/Hi” instead of “Hey guys/buddy”
  • Try to say “Good morning/afternoon/evening” instead of “What's up”
  • Try to say “May I” instead of “Can I”
  • Try to say “Let me find out for you” instead of “I don't know”
  • Try to say “Thank you” instead of “THANK YOU”(avoid ALL CAPS as this can sound rude)

Never say NO to your customers. Instead, offer alternatives or solutions. Also, always address your customers with their names whenever possible, e.g. "Thank you, John/Mr./Mrs./Ms. XXX" instead of "Thank you". Try to let your customers feel comfortable communicating with you on the Internet. Show your customers you value and respect them.


Complaints are never your burden or a hassle. By excelling at complaint management, you can turn that negativity into positivity. Showing your care and appreciation for customers through handling complaints in the right way can help you earn more loyal customers. So, let's view customer complaints as lucrative opportunities rather than mere nightmares.

Establish a system for handling complaints to ensure customers enjoy a consistent and excellent experience. You can include the above 6 best practices in your company's guidelines for employees' reference.

On, we've got you all covered, from payment to transportation. Tap into our useful features and tools to address common issues and minimize preventable dissatisfaction, such as actual products looking different from images. This way, you can invest more time in providing outstanding customer services to focus on retaining customers and building loyalty.

What's more wonderful is that our e-commerce platform provides free resources for sellers to develop and thrive. Visit our Learning Center to learn more about selling online. Sign up today and get the most out of our B2B marketplace!