The Internet provides a variety of sites where customers are encouraged to post reviews of products and services. EBay®, Amazon®, Dell®, Angie’s List®, Yelp® – all of these sites (and many more) post positive and negative company reviews.

No business owner likes complaints, and when those complaints go public, they can hurt your bottom line. More importantly, a negative comment posted anywhere is an opportunity to identify and fix problems in your organization and turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer who spreads the word among friends and business associates about the quality of customer care provided by your company.

So what can you do when you receive a complaint from a client or customer? Here are some suggestions

Always reply. A single angry customer who posts a negative product review on a web site can change the minds of hundreds of potential customers. Respond to complaints politely and professionally. In your response, acknowledge the problem and offer a solution: a full refund, a free gift, free return shipping. This demonstrates your company’s concern for taking care of customers and keeping them happy.

Take a proactive approach to finding complaints. A complaint about your company may not always appear on a review web site – or your company web site. Regularly conduct a Google search using your company name as your search term to locate negative reviews and customer complaints to which you can respond.

Add alerts using your company name to your Google email account. The search engine will drop you a line each time your company name is crawled by a Google spider with a positive or negative review.

Another useful tool to find customer complaints? Technorati® is a search engine for blogs. Use it to find references to your business and check out what people are saying about you in the blog band.

Make it easy to complain on your web site. A complaint posted on your web site will probably have less negative impact than a complaint posted to a popular site like Amazon.

Make it easy for customers to contact you. Provide a telephone number and email address. Post guarantees in simple terms. Make sure your return policy is clear. Addressing customer complaints that come through your web site will have less impact, and enable you to fix the problem fast to turn an unhappy customer into part of your regular customer base.

Develop a client care plan. How will employees handle customer complaints? Don’t develop a cookie-cutter strategy to fit all complaints. Each customer is different.

Instead, develop a general plan and encourage employees who engage dissatisfied customers to deviate from the strategy when necessary to resolve the issue. Have a plan, but resolve customer complaints in the most efficient manner – even if the solution costs your company money. Fix the problem to convert an unhappy buyer to a buyer who talks up your company.

Handling customer complaints efficiently and effectively should be a top priority for a successful business. To enjoy online success, take action to keep your customers satisfied.

Click here see another article on handling customer complaints.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.