Woman looking at her computer with a confused face, representing complaints at work

How to handle complaints at work

Handling complaints at work is one of the most difficult things to do. However, if you know what to expect, it won't be as hard as you think.
Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

In today’s workforce, it’s important to know how to handle complaints. You may think this is only relevant to people working in the hospitality or retail industries. But the truth is, customers can be internal, as well as external. No matter what position you hold, or industry you work in, you need to have the skills to effectively handle complaints.

Unfortunately, when it comes to handling complaints, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the emotions involved. Often the customer will be prepared before making their complaint – giving them the upper hand in the situation. When dealing with an unexpected scene, particularly when the customer is very angry or emotional, it’s easy to shut down and not know how to react.

However, with a little help, you can learn how to feel more confident and clear-headed when faced with complaints.

Handling complaints in a positive way

The most important thing to understand about these situations is that your actions and attitude towards complaint handling will have a direct impact on your organization or employer.

Did you know that 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully? With every negative customer experience there is an opportunity to create a positive outcome. Employees who can handle complaints in this way, finding positive solutions to negative situations, are incredibly valuable to any company.

For managers and employers, teaching staff how to handle complaints effectively will help build brand loyalty and grow a successful business. While also making team members feel more comfortable in their jobs.

Learn how to use the LAST complaints handling plan

So how do you go about it? How can you teach your employees to handle complaints in a positive way?

 A structured approach to complaint handling is vital. If you try to handle complaints without a proper plan, you’re making a big mistake. With a system in place, your staff will have better control of the situation and greater ability to turn the outcome around.

The LAST Complaints Handling plan does just that, and is easy to apply to any kind of workplace or industry. Let’s take a closer look at LAST.


The first thing you need to do when faced with a customer complaint is listen! Make sure you don’t interrupt and give the person reassuring visual or verbal cues that let them know you’re paying attention. This shows that you are making the effort to empathize with their situation and understand their point of view.


The next important step in effective complaints handling is to apologize. Regardless of the situation, your customer will be looking for someone to take responsibility and offer an apology on behalf of the company. You will calm down your customer and go a long way in resolving the situation with the simple words ‘I’m sorry.’


When handling complaints, your aim is to offer the customer a solution to their problem. You can do this in a way that achieves a positive outcome for both the customer and your company, making it a win-win situation.

One of the best ways to do this is to simply ask the customer for suggestions of what they believe would be a good solution. Ask them what they would like you to do, to put the situation right and make them happy?


After apologizing, offering a solution, and resolving the complaint, you can thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.

This final step may sound a little strange at first, but saying ‘thank you’ to your unhappy customer helps reassure them that you appreciate their feedback – even when that feedback is negative.

Their feedback and experience will allow your company to make positive changes to the businesses, in an effort to prevent this from happening again.

Use eLearning to learn more about handling complaints

Keen to learn more about the LAST Complaints Handling system?

The 20-minute Complaints Handling eLearning course has been developed to give you the knowledge, skills and confidence you need to handle complaints at work. For managers and employers, getting your staff enrolled in this course is a great way to introduce them to the LAST system, and will give them more confidence in their own complaints handling skills.

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