How Startups Should Handle Complaints

Every early stage startup employee needs to learn how startups should handle complaints. Here is a list of points to help you quickly resolve or at least mitigate complaints.

If you can really impress the upset one quickly; you can gain good publicity within his/her sphere of influence. Otherwise you will get bad publicity told to more people.

Your objective is to regain or achieve customer goodwill as a result of addressing the complaint.

At a summary level you wish to:

  • Listen carefully
  • Resolve a situation as quickly as possible. Resolution during the first contact is best.
  • Give some free something to the upset one
  • Train all employees who have customer contact as to how to resolve complaints. Only allow those with the best attitude to interact with an upset customer
  • Train these employees to be totally customer focused when interacting with an upset one.

Here is some detail concerning how startups should handle complaints:

  • Information gathering
    • Listen carefully
    • Collect name contact information and concern/problem information
    • Let the upset one vent
    • Repeat his/her major points back to them
    • Look past the anger to see what you can learn. There is almost certainly a way to improve; and now you can learn what needs fixing. But the furious customer will not be good at telling you how to fix the problem
    • Clarify what the problem is
    • If you are going to transfer the call – have a good explanation – and transfer quickly not after a 20 minute conversation
  • Resolution
    • Apologizing once is a very good idea
    • Think through the intended and actual customer experiences
    • Do not agree to all customer demands. Be reasonable. If the customer was at fault let him/her figure that out. Be gracious.
    • Avoid being Passive-Aggressive
    • Empathize. Be very careful with your tone – Do not point the blame to others
    • State that you want a mutually acceptable solution
    • Your respect for your customer must come across as authentic
    • Do not ask leading negative questions
    • A quick response and resolution is essential. Deliver it on the agreed date.
    • Get the information and answers right the first time
    • Verify that you have achieved resolution in a friendly way
    • Thank the customer
    • If a customer wants to terminate his account; make it a prompt easy experienced
  • After the interaction
    • Have those interacting with an upset one prepare a written report; immediately. Organize it to include:
      • Who was upset – name and category
      • What Complaint Persona Group does he/she fit into
        • Reasonable person
        • Timid
        • Aggressive
        • VIP customer
        • Perpetual complainer
        • Never pleased – nothing is good enough
    • Look through the above written reports on a monthly basis. Note patterns


A calm prompt respectful resolution is required.  Resolution must be verified.  Written records must be made and reviewed.



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