Customer complaints are an unavoidable part of business. Whether the blame lies with you or on circumstances beyond your control, it’s your job to address unhappy customers and make things right.   

But you can turn disgruntled customers into loyal fans — if you handle complaints well. If you handle them poorly, those voices of dissent can wreak havoc on your online reputation 

Not all complainers are alike, but they can be divided into five categories. Let’s review the different complainer personality types and how to work with each at your company. Then, we’ll wrap up with a list of complaints your business might receive and how to handle each one. 

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Complainer Definition

A complainer is someone who consistently voices displeasure with your business. Whether their complaints are justified or not, you receive more negative feedback from these customers than others. 

Keep in mind, you would never label a customer a “complainer” in your database. You wouldn’t write that down on a sales call or record it in your CRM. Rather, you would note that the customer has had poor experiences with your business and may exhibit one of the personalities below.   

If they do demonstrate these traits, then these tips can help you resolve their issues.  

5 Complainer Personality Types

  1. The Meek Complainer
  2. The Aggressive Complainer
  3. The Higher Roller Complainer
  4. The Dealer Complainer
  5. The Chronic Complainer

1. The Meek Complainer Personality Type

complainer personality types - meek complainer

Meek Complainers avoid confrontation and won’t make their complaints known immediately. Unless you actively seek their feedback, you may never know the Meek Complainer was dissatisfied with the service they received. 

How to Deal with the Meek Complainer Type: 

You should directly contact these customers, solicit their comments and complaints, and do whatever is necessary to address their concerns. Send them an email with a survey, or better yet, ask them if they would be willing to refer another customer. If they are, then you know you did a good job. If they don’t, that conversation might help you understand why this customer is unhappy with your service. 

Check out some of the tips in this video if you’re not sure how to ask for a customer referral. 

 2. The Aggressive Complainer Personality Type

complainer personality types - aggressive complainer

Unlike the Meek Complainer, the Aggressive Complainer complains loudly to anyone who will listen. Aggressive Complainers don’t respond well to those who are aggressive in return. In fact, they tend to dismiss excuses that justify their unsatisfactory experience. These folks have the same needs and goals as the Meek Complainer, but they’re just more vocal about getting what they want.

How to Deal with the Aggressive Complainer Type: 

The best response for Aggressive Complainers is to listen to their complaints, acknowledge their problems, and let them know exactly how and when they will be resolved. These people are looking for results, so you must give them a detailed timeline of when you will deliver a solution. The more information you provide, the more likely you are to reach common ground. 

 3. The High-Roller Complainer Personality Type

complainer personality types - high roller

High-Roller Complainers expect the absolute best and are willing to pay for a premium experience. Some are reasonable with their complaints, while others may behave more like Aggressive Complainers, but with higher expectations for your company. While these individuals are more likely to purchase your top-of-the-line offers, they’re also more likely to push back if things aren’t quite to their liking. 

How to Deal with the High-Roller Complainer Type: 

The High-Roller Complainer wants to know how your systems will improve in response to their experience. They don’t just want a solution for right now. They want assurance that the problem will never happen again. Rather than offering excuses, your best approach is to listen respectfully and ask questions to get to the root of the problem. From there, provide a solution as well as detailed explanation for why the issue will not happen again. 

Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s okay to say no to customers – especially if they aren’t a good fit for your business.

4. The Dealer Complainer Personality Type

complainer personality types - dealer

Dealer Complainers are slightly different than the other complainers on this list. Yes, they want their problem solved, but they also want something in return for their inconvenience. That might be a coupon, a free giveaway, or some other incentive. These folks are looking for something tangible to walk away with from this experience. It’s up to you to decide if they’re worth that discount or not. 

How to Deal With the Dealer Complainer Type: 

Your best bet is to stay objective and control your emotions. Back up your position with actual, quantifiable data, and make sure you document everything the customer asks from you. In some cases, your policy won’t allow you to meet the customer’s needs. Explain why that policy is in place and what you can do for the customer instead. 

If the customer responds with “not good enough,” then you might consider asking what they would like you to do to make things right.  

Here’s where you need to make a decision as a business owner. If the customer’s lifetime value is high enough, you should do whatever you can to keep that customer happy. If their value is lower, then maybe it’s better to hold your ground and stick with your policy — just be prepared for a negative response when they don’t get their way. In that case, stay calm, thank them for their feedback, and try to find a way to end the conversation on a positive note.  

5. The Chronic Complainer Personality Type

complainer personality type - chronic complainer

Chronic complainers are never satisfied and will always find something wrong. As frustrating as this can be, remember they’re still your customers. You can’t simply dismiss their complaints just because they have a lot of them. Instead, you should take their feedback as an opportunity to improve some details of your business. While not every request can (or should be) granted, chronic complaints are sometimes helpful hints for how you can improve your company. 

How to Deal With the Chronic Complainer Type: 

Responding to the Chronic Complainer takes extraordinary patience. As with some other complainer types, be sure to stay calm and collected. Raising your voice or shifting your tone will only escalate the issue. Instead, show the customer that you’re aligned with their position and are as invested in solving their problems as they are. 

Chronic Complainers can, at times, be reasonable, and might appreciate your attempts to redress the situation. In fact, despite their constant complaining, they tend to be good customers. They’re the type of people that will happily tell others about their positive experience with your company. 

Note: Not all customers will fit neatly into these categories. There may be some overlap, and the same person may display characteristics of each at different points in their customer journey. 

Now that you’re familiar with the different complainer personality types, let’s look at the type of complaints that each one might have. 

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8 Types of Customer Complaints 

Here’s a list of complaints that your business might receive. Each of the complainer personality types might come forward with any one of these complaints, so it’s important to know how to address them all for each type of customer.

1. Lack of Communication

We’ve all made this mistake. A missed phone call, an email slips through the cracks, and suddenly the customer thinks you’re ducking them. Whether you want to deal with them or not, lacking in your communication is a quick way to upset a customer. 

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

Organization is the key to mass communication. If you can see all your conversations in one place, you can quickly address messages you haven’t responded to or might need to follow up on. Most communication software will provide a centralized inbox where all of your emails, phone calls, and social media messages are forwarded to one place. That way, you can respond to each without having to jump between platforms.

2. Product or Service Quality

A good product can solve a lot of problems for your business. After all, your product or service is what the customer is paying for, so that matters more than any other factor in their customer experience. If you under-deliver on expectations, or your product doesn’t work, you should expect your customers to voice their complaints.  

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

The first step you should take is fixing the problem. If it’s a faulty product, issue a new one. If it was an incomplete service, finish the job and make sure everything is in order before you leave. Once the problem is fixed, turn your attention back to the customer. Apologize for the inconvenience and assure them it won’t happen again. If possible, provide a coupon or a promo code for a discount on a future purchase to show that you truly value their business.

3. Delivery Times

Deliveries are important – especially if you work in B2B industries. If you are late with a delivery, that affects the customer’s bottom line. Take a restaurant, for example. If a truck delivering its bread is a day late on its delivery, a sandwich shop can’t sell sandwiches. That’s one full day of revenue that the restaurant losses out on. 

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

Start with an apology, then provide an estimation for when the shipment will be delivered. Be prepared for the customer to be unhappy and voice their displeasure with your business. Keep your cool and try to make things right where you can. While you might not be able to replace lost revenue, you can offer a discount on a future shipment.

4. Pricing, Fees, & Refunds

These complaints are focused on how much the customer is paying for your product or service. They might think that you’re charging too much or are complaining about fees you added to their invoice. They may even ask for a refund after having a poor experience with your business. Either way, these conversations are never fun, because they affect your bottom line. 

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

If a customer is complaining about your prices, try to explain the factors that affect your pricing structure. Lean on your invoice, if possible, to highlight what the customer paid for — and why they’re paying for it. For example, a contractor’s invoice might list the different supplies used to complete a project. The customer can clearly see what they’ve been charged for and why it was needed for that project.  

Pro Tip: If a customer asks for a refund, check out these tips for turning that refund into a repeat customer at your business.

5. Conflicts With Employees

If you work face-to-face with customers, there’s a chance you’ll clash with a few people. Whether you’re in the right or the wrong, these situations are never good for your business — because the customer is the one who gets to write the online review. They can write whatever they want about your business (truthful or not), and most third parties will be inclined to take the customer’s side.  

We hear you – it’s not fair. But it is a part of running a business in the modern age.  

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

We know it’s hard, but this is one of those times where you might have to bite your lip for the sake of your business. Rather than escalate, remain calm and try to narrow down exactly what the customer wants. If you feel like emotions are rising, ask to step away or put the customer on hold. If you can, consider shifting the conversation to email, so you can take some time between each response.

6. Technical Difficulties

Technical difficulties are problems that affect the infrastructure of your business. For example, if your payment software goes down, then you’re unable to collect payments from your customers. Or, if your computer freezes, you might get locked out of your email and social media accounts. While these situations aren’t completely your fault, they can inconvenience your customers.  

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

When technical difficulties happen, be proactive and communicate with your customers right away. Let them know that you’re working on the issue and provide alternative ways to get in contact with you, if needed. As soon as things are working again, send another alert to let them know you’re operating at 100%.  

Pro Tip: You can use a CRM to record and review your available communication channels with each customer.

7. Social Media

Social media complaints are a little different from other complaints on this list. These are the negative comments that you get on your posts or when you’re DM’d (direct message) by customers either privately or publicly.  

 When you post on social media, everything you publish and share is under the scrutiny of the Internet. Some people might have legitimate complaints, while other people might comment random things to stir the pot. 

How to Solve This Customer Complaint: 

Read the room. Don’t respond if a comment feels like trolling – that will only fan the fire. 

If a comment does merit a response, follow up with the customer and ask if you can message them privately. If they push back, offer to continue the conversation in public, but explain why it’s beneficial to shift to a more controlled channel. You might say it’s for their privacy or to protect sensitive information, but let the customer choose where they want to have the conversation. In some cases, you might have to hash it out in public, so remember to remain empathetic, be patient, and watch out for other followers piling on in the comments. 

Pro Tip: Check out these best practices for boosting your company’s online reputation 

Dealing With Complainers at Your SMB 

When you run a small business, customer complaints are just a part of life. Knowing how to deal with them and the different complainer personality types is important if you want to navigate difficult conversations. The good news is – the more you do it, the better you get at it. So, don’t shy away from responding to customer complaints; they’re great opportunities to improve your service experience and gain loyal customers.

Modern Small Business Playbook

Modern Small
Business Playbook

Modernize your business, get paid faster and win more customers.