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A Step-By-Step Guide To Dealing With Customer Complaints on Shopify

For decades, the e-commerce industry has seen steady growth. The current Covid-19 pandemic had also contributed to an increase in online sales. It’s now a significantly larger part of more people’s lives than ever before.

If you're new to Shopify, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the sale and forget that there's a chance things may go wrong. There are so many things that can happen between when a customer orders from your store and when they receive the product that it can feel almost impossible to prevent them all.

Now, it's always nice to get positive feedback from your customers. However, as a business owner, you're well aware that dealing with customer complaints is also one of the most unpleasant and daunting tasks you'll ever do.

What exactly are customer complaints?

A customer complaint is a signal that your marketing, user experience, and/or service are out of sync with what customers expect.

However, not all complaints are created equal. If a customer complains about something that’s actually beyond your control, like an issue with the shipping or fulfillment of your product, there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem except reach out to the customer and say that you’re sorry for the error.

Customer complaints may not be fun, but they’re definitely useful. They can provide valuable insight into how your company is functioning and give you a glimpse into what your customers are thinking — both of which will help you improve your business. Customer complaints also help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to product or service improvements.

Complaints often provide clues about issues that haven’t yet been widely reported by other customers, so listening to feedback can help you get a head start on making things right. If a customer does have an issue with your product/service, it’s much better to know about it before that individual starts telling everyone they know, right?

How to Handle Complaints

There is no point in ignoring the complaints of your consumers though you might be tempted to. These kinds of customers will undoubtedly speak poorly of you in the future by spreading the word on social media or by word of mouth. Existing and future customers could decide to stop doing business with you or switch to your rivals if word gets out about the issues you've been having.

How you manage customer complaints correctly is crucial to avoiding such a terrible scenario. Here is a step by step process into handling complaints with ease:

Step 1: Find out as much as you can about the customer and the problem.

The first step in handling customer complaints is to make sure you’re listening to them. Complaints, even furious ones might include insights, and it’s your responsibility to find the root cause. A great way to listen is to gather as much information as possible about the customer by asking the right questions. If they are too angry, don't compel them to tell you everything straight immediately. When someone is still reeling after an event, it might take them some time to articulate what transpired.

Ask your customer questions like:

  • Could you give me an example, please.
  • Could you elaborate on that?
  • I’m not sure I understand what you mean, can you expand further?

And ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there anything more I should know?
  • What exactly am I assuming here?
  • What is the significance of this complaint?

Complaints are frequently the outcome of unresolved issues. Asking the correct questions can help you get to the bottom of the problem, work out a solution, and evaluate if the complaint contains actual insight.

If you can't help the customer, you need to refer them to someone who can and explain why. “I'll connect you with a professional who will have that taken care of right away,” for example.

Step 2: Assess what kind of customer you’re dealing with

When customers contact you with a complaint, it’s important to know how to handle them. Not only do you want to make sure their issue is resolved and they’re satisfied with how you handle it, but you also want to prevent them from taking their business elsewhere.

Figuring out the best way to handle each customer can be tricky. According to a University of Florida study, you will probably encounter one of the following categories of customers while dealing with customer complaints:

  • Aggressive customers
  • These are customers who aren’t shy about letting you know they’re upset. If you can get them on your side, they'll be the simplest to work with. They want to be heard and have their problems answered, and if you give them what they want, they'll most likely give you favorable feedback and become a strong champion for your business. Listen respectfully and actively, agree that a problem exists, and indicate what will be done to resolve it and when.

  • The High Roller Customer
  • These are your customers who pay well and demand special treatment. They might have complicated requirements or use your product in a way that makes life easier for them. If they pay a premium, then they have expectations and will want frequent updates and special treatment from you, but if you handle them well, they may become strong advocates. Avoid making excuses and always focus on creating a solution. 

  • Customers who contact you frequently.
  • When replying to these customers, be patient and avoid sounding annoyed. They most likely have an issue that is interfering with their enjoyment of your product or service, and they require extra care. You may not be able to address their problem right away, but if you can explain the situation and provide genuine assistance, they could be a loyal customer.

  • Customers who don’t want to return.
  • You'll need to actively contact these consumers to seek and address their complaints; otherwise, you could never hear from them again.

    These are broad generalizations, and your customers likely have a more complicated mix of motives and actions, but understanding the different sorts of personas will help you respond more properly to the real person you're helping.

    Step 3: Respond with speed

    When it comes to unhappy customers, a speedy response goes from being a nice-to-have to a necessity. Complaints are best resolved as soon as possible. It shows you're attentive and on top of things, and it helps reduce the chance that people hear about your bad reviews before they hear about how you've resolved them. With Shopify's new Customer Support chat feature (available on Shopify Plus), you can respond to customers immediately through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

    Refer back to the types of customers we shared earlier. If they sent in a message with a certain request, they may not mind getting the reply a few hours or a day later. But if they’re irate and seething with anger or declaring that it’s an emergency, you’ll want to respond right away.

    Make sure that you have a system set up where you can filter out these kinds of messages by priority thereby helping you and your team to see which customers need help asap.

    Make sure to acknowledge the complaint, even if you don’t agree with it. Apologize for any hassles that have been caused and keep them updated. It’s very important to let them know how long it will take you to respond or resolve that issue and present a solution.

    Step 4: Present a solution, and verify that the problem is solved

    Even if you believe the customer is wrong, they are still your customer, so it’s best to always assume responsibility. They want a solution or even an explanation. Assess how you can best accommodate your customer’s request or complaint after getting to the root cause of the problem, and present your solution to them.

    It's critical to confirm that the solution you suggested solves their issue. If you are unable to verify that the solution is working, add the following line to the conclusion of your communication: "Please let me know if there is anything further I can do for you."

    Present proof if needed by responding as such: "I've tested this myself, and everything looks to be functioning as intended, as seen here: (include screenshot). But do let me know if you continue to have problems."

    In certain situations, it may be advisable to contact the customer again after a few days to ensure that everything has been handled. Here’s a quick template to get started:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with ________. We value your input and would like to learn more about the experience you had involving ________. If you could please provide us with your name, phone number, shipping address, email address, and the best time to contact you, we will reach out to you as soon as possible.

    Step 5: Make sure to keep a log the complaint

    It helps to keep a log of customer complaints so you can spot trends that might not be immediately apparent at first glance. For example, if you get multiple messages from customers all sharing the same complaint, then it may be a problem with your product or shipping process that needs further investigation. Also, tracking complaints will allow you to see which ones were resolved quickly without having to contact support.


    • Always respond politely and promptly. Even if a customer is bashing you, don't stoop to their level — it makes you look petty, and they'll just get angrier.
    • Respond to negative comments promptly (within 24 hours).
    • Never delete posted complaints. If you delete negative comments on social media or customers will know — and it can get worse.
    • Always apologize and resolve the concern. Shoppers remember how you made them feel more than anything else, so make them feel heard!
    • Be sincere in your responses and offer solutions (if any).
    • Don't publicize private details of resolution.
    • If necessary, move the discussion offline.


    Mistakes happen, and that's why we have customer service. In fact, the way a company handles customer complaints can be one of its strongest selling points, because it shows that it stands behind its products and cares about its customers.

    That's especially true in the age of social media, when everyone has a platform to air their grievances in public. Even if someone knows they're wrong, there's still a temptation to post their dissatisfaction on Facebook or Twitter — partly to vent frustration, but also because people enjoy seeing others taken down a peg.

    Handling online complaints is an art form, and one you'll need to master if your business is going to thrive. 

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