Business Practices | | Published November 13, 2014

How to Build Customer Loyalty from Customer Complaints

Winning Customers Back After a Bad Experience

You go into a store that you frequent but aren’t strictly loyal to in order to pick up some items you ordered for a party later that day. Unfortunately when you get to the service desk they have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s no record of the order or the items in question, and it turns out they don’t even sell one of the items you had ordered.

Because of the huge mix-up, you’re understandably upset. To make things worse, the person behind the desk has trouble believing you’re even in the right store. Now you feel insulted AND you don’t have your party supplies.

Be honest: even if you go home and write an angry email or Twitter message to the company, would you go back to that store? Most people wouldn’t even consider it. If there’s another place to go, they’ll simply go there and that’s that. However, if you get a good response and apology from the customer service team, and they go the extra mile to make it right and get your supplies in time for your party, then you could quickly turn around and become a loyal fan.

Taking the Steps

It’s tough to recover from providing a bad experience for a customer, even one time. Bringing the customer or client back around can be a real time investment. Occasionally you will lose customers – it happens, and everyone makes mistakes. However, recovering to win them back can be relatively simple.

Here's How to Win Customers Back and Build Customer Loyalty

First, there’s the apology. No matter what happened, no matter whose fault you believe it is or any other factor, you must apologize. Multiple times if that’s what it takes! Let the customer know that there’s no way what happened should have happened and you’re very sorry. Tell them this is not the usual way you do things and that you’ll do whatever you can to win them back.

Honestly, if the customer took the time to tell you about the bad experience, you at least have a shot at keeping them around. Remember that many customers won’t ever let you know that anything is wrong, they will simply take their business elsewhere. The customer that reaches out to you is looking for validation and compensation – validation so they don’t feel like they were in the wrong and compensation for going through such a tough time. In the end, that’s all they want. The more you make them work for either of these things the less likely they’ll stick around.


The apology is one thing, but the customer is really looking for incentive to come back. Again, since they took the time to email/tweet/call/contact you to complain, you have a shot at getting them back. Your compensation has to be worth their time to reinvest their feelings into your company.

Of course you can’t promise them the moon and back. However, you have to make the compensation portion worth their time and appropriate for the size of the offense. Otherwise, you’re just going to make them more upset.

Case in point, the above example: if the store offered you a 10% coupon for the next time you came in, would that reduce your frustration? It would probably actually make you angrier, especially because it does nothing to fix the problem you have that day – a terrible party without the supplies you had planned, and extra time spent trying to replace them. However, if they went out of their way to find the items you need (even working with a competitor) so your event goes off without a hitch, you would be much more inclined to go back and give them another shot. Don’t just do the bare minimum and think they’ll be ok – exceed their expectations so they know you truly care.

Out for Freebies?

You may be afraid that some customers are complaining just because they’ve heard of your generous policies. In some cases, yes, this may be the case where unscrupulous customers are trying to take advantage of your excellent customer service. But most customers who take the time to do business with you and then to contact you afterward with a complaint are truly aggrieved. Don’t let a few bad apples give your company a reputation for uncaring customer service.

Now you tell us. Have you ever gone above and beyond to win a customer back?