No one wants to hear bad news. Especially if it’s a customer complaint.
But what if your customer service was almost prescient and could stop complaints before they happen? No, we’re not suggesting you break out the Ouija board and crystal ball just yet. All it actually takes is a little empathy and foresight.
We’ve put together a collection of the most common sources of customer complaints (and how to fix them) to help you create a better shopping experience for your customers before they have the chance to get frustrated.
As a bonus, we’ve also included three email templates that you can use to handle complaints if things do end up going sideways.
Complaints can be a useful tool for discovering where your business needs to improve, but it’s much better to be able to get that insight without upsetting a customer at the same time.
What causes customer complaints?
Customers complain when they feel frustrated.
That doesn’t mean that customers only complain when they can’t do something. Frustration happens any time the results of an action don’t match the expectation—when you do something and it doesn’t turn out how you thought it would.
These frustrating moments can occur at any point in your customer’s shopping experience. For instance, maybe their order never arrives or your product pages are a complete mess. Potentially frustrating scenarios are everywhere.
You need to anticipate and eliminate these opportunities for frustration, so that your customers can discover, purchase, and enjoy your products without hitting any roadblocks (and without sending you a complaint about their less-than-stellar experience).
The most common sources of customer complaints
While complaints can take many forms, there are a few key things that can leave customers dissatisfied if they aren’t handled properly. If you can master these critical issues, your business will start getting less complaints and more happy customers instead.
Keeping your customers happy is all about managing expectations. Most customer complaints are caused by a disconnect between expectation and reality, so you need be able to more accurately align your customers’ expectations with likely outcomes.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of complaints and how your business can get on top of them before they turn your customers away.
1. Shipping and inventory issues
“Where’s my order?”
If you’ve gotten that question before, then you definitely understand the importance of being able to deliver your products safely and on time.
Your customers put a lot of trust in you to get them their orders and if they feel uncertain about when their package is going to show up (or if it’s going to show up at all), the complaints will start rolling in.
To keep your customers in the loop, offer order tracking whenever possible. If your customers can keep an eye on the progress of their order in real time, they’ll have a more clear understanding of when their order should arrive and you’ll be able to reduce the potential for complaints based on shipping delays or uncertainty.
For Shopify store owners, giving customers the option to track their order is as easy as dropping in the tracking number when fulfilling an order or adding an Order Status page to your store.
If you ship your products through USPS, you can also give your customers a live updates on their package’s journey with a map that appears on your Order Status page.
If you use other shipping methods to deliver your products, Tracktor is a handy app supported by hundreds of carriers worldwide that adds full delivery updates and a real time map to your Order Status page.
Out of stock products can be another major headache for potential customers. To prevent this from happening, you can use an app like Notify Me for your Shopify store to give your customers the option to be notified when a product is back in stock.
Alternatively, apps like Wipeout can help you out by automatically hiding your products once they sell out, so customers won’t feel frustrated when they aren’t able to make their purchases.
2. Inaccurate product photos and descriptions
“It’s not the right size.”
Try to see things from your customers’ perspectives: What would you want to know before ordering something online?
There’s nothing worse than placing an order, waiting 5-7 business days for it to show up, and then realizing it doesn’t fit properly.
When products don’t look, feel, or fit the way your customers imagined that they would, it’s easy to understand their disappointment. Every ecommerce business needs to do its best to give a clear and honest understanding of what its products will actually be like in real life, so that customers know exactly what they’re ordering.
Writing product descriptions with important details like dimensions, materials, and sizing charts is a great way to accurately describe your products and give your customers a reasonable idea of what they should expect when placing an order.
Peace Collective, a Toronto-based apparel company, has product descriptions that are concise enough to be digested at a glance, but still feature all of the relevant details. They’ve even included the model’s measurements as well as a detailed sizing chart.
Don’t be afraid to be as transparent as possible. For instance, if a product runs small or large, be up front about it. Your customers will appreciate it and your honesty will help build trust with your audience.
Inaccurate product photography can also be a source of frustration for your customers. Ordering a product and realizing that the texture or colour is completely different once you take it out of the box is a terrible feeling and can lead to complaints, returns, and customers that never come back.
To help your customers decide if your products are right for them, it’s also important to enable reviews and integrate social media feeds into your product pages.
Not only will this approach give hesitant customers the extra push they need to place an order, but it will also give them an inside look at what real people think about your products. Product reviews and Instagram photos will set your customers’ expectations at a realistic level and make sure that they’re satisfied with their orders.
Website responsiveness and usability
“Your website sucks.”
Try to imagine your website as a real life storefront: Can your customers easily find you? Is your store a complete mess? Is it difficult for your customers to actually purchase your products?
Keeping your website clean, organized, and easy to navigate is just as important as having a neat and tidy brick-and-mortar shop.
To avoid annoying your customers, you need to put a mobile responsive website at the heart of your ecommerce strategy. Nearly ⅓ of smartphone users will immediately navigate away from a website if it takes too long to load or they can’t find what they’re looking for right away.
That’s huge, especially since more than half of all Google searches are now happening on smartphones and tablets rather than desktop. However, if you own a Shopify store, you’ll be good to go since every Shopify theme is already fully mobile responsive.
Load times in particular take a toll on your customers’ patience. According to Google, 40% of customers will abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Wondering how your website stacks up? Try running it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
If your store has a physical location, you should also think about how easy it is for your customers to find your contact details.
When customers visit a brick-and-mortar store’s website, they’re looking for address and location information above anything else. And half the time, those local searches actually result in customers showing up to the business’ physical storefront within 24 hours.
Here’s a quick checklist with the details that every business needs to have on their “Contact Us” page to avoid frustrating customers who are trying to get in touch:
- Hours of operation
- Address and location for brick-and-mortar stores
- Phone number
- Email address
- Social media links
3 templates for dealing with customer complaints
Despite your best efforts, you may still get customer complaints from time to time.
It’s important to not let these complaints eat away at you. Instead, see them as a chance to make your store better. Try to look past the negative feedback and uncover the lesson at the core of the complaint.
Remember: If someone is complaining, it means they’re looking for a solution.
They aren’t trying to hurt you. They aren’t out to get you. They’re frustrated and they need help.
As a business owner, it might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility. You need to deal with these complaints and find a solution that works.
It isn’t always easy to come up with the right words, especially if you’re dealing with a particularly emotionally-charged message. But with the right templates, writing a response can be a lot less stressful.
It’s crucial that you don’t just copy and paste these templates verbatim. Customers can spot a canned response from a mile away. Instead, use them as a guide for crafting a helpful and unique email.
Here are three basic email templates that you can use as a jump-off point for responding to complaints.
1. The proactive response
If you notice something wrong with a customer’s order, you need to reach out to them to let them know that you’ve corrected it—even if they haven’t complained about it yet.
If you really want to let them know you care, include a discount code to make sure they come back again and that their faith in your store hasn’t been shaken by a minor misstep.
Thank you for shopping with [YOUR BUSINESS]! Unfortunately, due to [CAUSE OF ERROR], your order was [ERROR WITH ORDER]. We’ve [CREDITED YOUR ACCOUNT/RESHIPPED YOUR ORDER/FIXED THE ISSUE] and you will still receive your order via your selected shipping method.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and we are happy to offer you [DISCOUNT/PROMOTION] for your next purchase. Simply use this code at checkout: [DISCOUNT CODE].
If you have any questions or require additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [YOUR PHONE NUMBER] or via email at [YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS].
2. The yes response
If a customer complains, you need to be able to resolve their issue quickly and competently.
According to American Express, 60% of customers always share their negative customer service experiences, meaning it sometimes only takes one instance of poor customer service to start a bad reputation for your brand. That’s a risk you can’t take.
Instead, you need to use empathy and a little creativity to come up with a solution that will satisfy your customer and keep them coming back.
Hi [CUSTOMER NAME],
Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry to hear about your trouble with [ISSUE].
I’ve gone ahead and [SOLUTION] as an apology for any inconvenience you may have experienced. I know that [ISSUE] can be incredibly [FRUSTRATING/ANNOYING/EMOTION] and I do hope that you try ordering from [YOUR BUSINESS] again in the future.
Thank you for giving us a try and if there’s anything else that I can do for you, please let me know!
3. The no response
In some scenarios, there might not be a solution for your customer’s problem.
Sometimes customers will have negative feedback about things like design or product updates that there will be no immediate solution for. However, these can be great opportunities for learning more about how customers use your products and how your business can grow in the future.
As long as you respond thoroughly and with compassion, your customer will know that their opinion has been heard and they may give your business another shot.
Hi [CUSTOMER NAME],
Thank you for reaching out. Sorry for the trouble! / I am so sorry to hear that. Would you mind telling me more about [SUGGESTION]?
At this time, we are unable to offer [SUGGESTION]. However, it does sound like a great idea and I have passed your feedback onto our team. I definitely understand how [FRUSTRATING/ANNOYING/EMOTION] it can be to deal with [ISSUE].
I really appreciate your input and I do hope you’ll give us another try. If there’s anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Fixing complaints creates a better shopping experience
Customer complaints aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but a satisfied customer is much better than an upset one.
Now that you understand why your customers complain, it’s time to get out there and give them the best shopping experience possible. After all, your business is here to serve your customers, so their thoughts and opinions need to be at the core of your strategy.