Ok, so none of us want to be complained about. It's horrible if someone isn't happy. But whatever the reason for their unhappiness, getting to the bottom of it as fast and respectfully as you can, and then taking action quickly to find a way to diffuse the situation is vital.

Today's blame and litigation culture has made us all terrified of saying 'sorry', for fear of that being read as an admission of guilt. But sometimes, it's very evident that 'sorry' is the first and right word. Quickly followed by, 'let me get to the bottom of this for you/find a way forward'... or words along the same lines.

Keep in mind that this usually isn't personal. So strip out your own personal feelings from the situation, push defensiveness firmly into a corner. Instead, take a bird's eye view of the customer's concerns and get pragmatic. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you be looking for? How would you want to be treated if this happened to you? Make this about them, not you.

The faster you get into solution mode, the happier your customer is going to feel - not necessarily about the fact they've experienced something they don't like in the first place, but because of the way you've handled it. Indeed, ironically, great complaints handling can turn a negative situation into a reputationally positive one and help you retain business. Even grow it.

Look at John Lewis as a great example. One of the things they're best known for alongside their 'never knowingly undersold' and quality propositions is their no quibble approach to dealing with faults and problems. It gives customers confidence that if something isn't quite right, they'll be looked after, treated well and the problem will get sorted without recrimination or a CSI style inquest.

What are our quick fire tips for handling customer complaints well?

Respond to a complaint in a timely fashion.

If appropriate, offer up a solution on how to move forward with their issue while you look into the complaint separately.

Make sure you do the leg work - investigate what has happened thoroughly so you have a clear picture of what happened. 

Respond in a clear and straight forward way making sure you are clear as to whether the complaint is upheld or not, and what the next steps are.

Make sure you attach a copy of your complaints process so that they know what the next steps are if they are unhappy with your initial response.

The LHS 24/7 legal advice line is over 15 years old. It's currently rated 99% amongst our customers for being courteous, professional and understanding. In the past 10 years, it has never been rated lower than 96%. Of course, it's not 100%, so for us it's still not good enough and we'll never stop striving for the target. But we've learned a thing or two about what it takes to get to 99% and the techniques above have really worked for us. We hope you find them helpful too.