How to Handle Customer Complaints?

It’s not a typical day when I wake up with more customer complaints than orders, however, today was one such day. I’ve repeatedly sold a chair in 3 different colors on my store in last 2 months. Recently the supplier re-stocked the chair couple of weeks back. I sold a few more and woke up to 4 customer complaints today. It’s not unusual in a business like mine but 4 in 1 day is definitely too much.

It’s not the first time that I’ve had to handle customer complaints since I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I’ve  noticed people new to the situation generally get freaked out and don’t know what to do, so here are a few tips on how to handle customer complaints. Always remember when you sourcing products from a 3rd party that you might get some sort of customer complaints. I’m not saying that to scare you, however it’s very important to be prepared before than be deceptive about it.


Prepare yourself with the order processing, return and replacement policies of the supplier you are planning to deal with. Look into questions like –

  1. What is their order processing time?
  2. Do they charge for shipping?
  3. Do they offer return? What is their return policy?
  4. Do they offer 30 days return or 90 days?
  5. Do they charge re-stocking fees or return fees? (Don’t be surprised, some sellers do!!)
  6. What are their policies on damaged goods or wrong item received?
  7. What is their return processing time? Do they send a return label immediately or does someone from return department contact you later before sending a return label?
  8. Who pays for the return? You or the seller?
  9. Do they have an option of courier pick or do you have to go drop off the item?
  10. How do they deal with situations where the tracker says delivered however, the buyer still hasn’t received the item?

Here are some of the examples of situations that may arise for you. I’ve listed the ones that were on the top of my mind. These or any other, all situations all lead to one solution – Talk to your supplier. If you face any issue, always click on the “contact us” button and jump on a chat or a phone call with the customer representative. I love to chat because it’s easy and I can multi-task while I’m getting solution to my problem.

Rule number 1 while dealing with complaints is – Don’t Panic

Don’t panic when you get a complaint from a customer. Take a deep breathe, apologize and tell them that you would do your best to solve their issue. Customers panic too when they see a late shipment or a wrong or damaged item. They paid for the item and will get sad/mad/frustrated when they don’t get what they paid for. Give them an assurance that you would do your best to help them out and then contact your supplier with the issue (as the buyer) and see what they can do the best. Unless the supplier knows that you are drop-shipping off of him, don’t mention it. You can always say you placed the order for a friend and so and so issue happened.

Rule number 2 – Remember to negotiate

When you in conversation with the rep, there will be times when you don’t agree to the solution they provide to you. Don’t just say yes because you want the problem to go away quickly, say no and get your terms agreed upon. The reps are trained to provide you a quick solution which may or may not be what you want. Ask them for an alternative, what other options can they provide you, that would best suit you and your buyers needs.

E.g. In my case, one of the buyers I sold to was a pregnant lady and did not want to drop off the item to UPS drop off location. So I insisted my seller organizer a local pick up. Since they wanted me to pay for it, which I would not because dude, you delivered the wrong item, I didn’t ask for it, he issued me reward points worth $7 (the return cost) that I could avail in my next order. It was a win-win situation for me because I’ll have to place a replacement order for her and I can add that discount to the next order and indirectly save $7.

Do you notice, how we came to a conclusion suitable for both of us?

Rule number 3 – Keep the customer in loop. 

Once you have the solution from the seller, inform your customer about the next steps and what you expect them to do. Continuing with the above case, I messaged the lady that UPS will pick up the package, sent her a return label with instructions and also informed her when the new package of chairs would arrive to her. She was happy and told me she would get back to me once the item was picked up from her house.

It’s not difficult to handle queries and you should not be afraid of them. Do what you can do best to keep the customer happy and if they are not happy with the solution, ask them to return the item for a 100% fund. Sometimes that’s the best solution you can offer.


As a seller, what do you do to handle customer complaints? If you a buyer, what would you like a seller to do different when handling your complaints? Drop in your views in the comments below!

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. – Donald Porter V.P. British Airways




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