If you own a business, I’m willing to bet that a bad review or two—or maybe more—has scuffed up your once-shiny Google or Facebook review page. Customer complaints may have even crept into your already-clustered inbox and busy phone line.
Whether they’re coming in waves or just starting to trickle in, low-star ratings and customer complaints can easily cause you to lose sleep. And while your initial reaction might be rolling up your sleeves and defending the business you worked so hard to build, becoming a keyboard warrior definitely won’t impress the complainer—or potential future customers.
So, what’s the right way to handle customer complaints as a mobile service or delivery business?
In this blog post, we’ll cover the most common causes of bad reviews, the five types of complaining customers, and a simple five-step process for responding to negative feedback (both in person and online).
Top 5 Causes of Bad Customer Reviews (with Examples)
We’ve all been customers at some point. If you’ve ever left a bad review or made a complaint, think back on it. You probably didn’t do so out of spite, especially as a business owner yourself. Something caused you to leave that review.
While learning how to handle customer complaints is a smart step to take as a service provider, don’t stop there. If you’re receiving negative feedback, you’ll likely continue to get it until you dig to the root cause. Thus, understanding the most common reasons why customers complain will help you not only respond, but also stop the same issue from impacting future customers.
1. Late Delivery
If you browse through the lowest-star reviews on any service business’s Google page, you’ll see that lack of promptness is one of the biggest sticking points.
When customers order from you, they have high expectations when it comes to timing—after all, you are a delivery company. So if you want to avoid negative reviews, fast and timely delivery should be a top priority for you and your crew.
To see what I mean, check out this review left on a floral company’s Google page:
In it, the woman describes how the flowers her boyfriend ordered were late. On top of that, the company’s staff seemed to have no idea where the flowers actually were. When asked about the flowers’ location, staff kept telling the customer that “they’re on the truck.”
The best way to fend off this kind of review is to simply not deliver orders late. But sometimes, factors outside of your control make on-time delivery impossible. That’s just one reason why GPS tracking is such a valuable tool. Using GPS technology, the delivery company could have provided real-time updates to the woman’s boyfriend so he knew when the flowers would arrive. That way, even if the flowers were delivered later than expected, he wouldn’t have had to spoil the surprise.
GPS technology is relatively simple to use—especially if you have a solution designed specifically for small businesses. If you want to learn more about GPS tracking, I highly recommend watching this video.
2. Low-Quality Service
This one might be obvious, but low-quality service often leads to low-star ratings. Here’s an example of a negative review left by a customer who wasn’t happy with the level of service provided by an HVAC company:
When this customer needed their air conditioner repaired, the technician not only failed to get the part working again, but also pretty much gave up. It’s not hard to see why the customer was upset. If I had to pay more than $300 for a service that didn’t solve my problem, I’d feel the same way.
The company did eventually respond to this person’s review. The representative did not defend the employee’s performance, confirming that this was indeed an issue with service quality. The company also credited the service charge back to the customer. (More on that later.)
So, what would have been a better response from the technician? One option would be providing the customer with a list of recommended electricians after thoroughly explaining why an electrician’s expertise is necessary to fix the problem. Leaving the customer without any next steps—especially when they still need help—is lazy behavior that gives the customer even more reason to leave a bad review.
3. Rude or Unhelpful Staff
The employees you hire have a major impact on the way customers perceive your business. In many cases, all it takes is the lack of a smile and an uninterested tone of voice to make a customer complain.
This is especially important when your customer base is largely made up of other businesses, as is the case for this catering company:
The first red flag this customer noticed was that the company was unresponsive to her emails. Then, after following up with a phone call, the customer had an even more disappointing exchange with the receptionist.
“Who are you?” is never an appropriate response for an employee to give a customer. The way this employee spoke to the customer cost her boss a potential repeat client. And the impact of this loss doesn’t end with the revenue potential of that specific client; it could also put a damper on the company’s word-of-mouth referrals.
In all honesty, it would’ve been super easy to prevent this negative review. Make sure your employees treat customers with respect and respond to emails in a timely fashion—ideally within 24-48 hours.
4. Unprofessional or Inappropriate Behavior
Every employee has bad days, but that doesn’t give them a pass to disrespect a customer. Regardless of the circumstances, unprofessional or inappropriate behavior can lead to bad reviews at best—and legal troubles at worst.
For example, if you ever receive a complaint about an employee being discriminatory, your company could find itself in very hot water. While claims can sometimes be made up and often boil down to a “he-said, she-said” scenario, the potential customers who are looking at your reviews online don’t always care.
Service employees often need to enter the customer’s home or property, which makes this point even more important. To see what I mean, take a look at the following review for a plumbing company:
As I scrolled through this company’s other reviews, I found that an overwhelming number of complaints stemmed from unprofessional behavior. Someone even accused the business of buying fake positive reviews, as the person posting them is known to leave one-sentence five-star testimonials on many different Google business pages. Even if you’re experiencing an influx of negative feedback, this is something you never want to do—your customers are smarter than that.
Using customers’ private bathrooms, entering parts of the house that aren’t related to the job, or going somewhere without asking permission is never appropriate.
5. Hidden Fees or Undisclosed Prices
If you want a reputation for being scammy and overpriced, hitting your customers with unexpected fees is a surefire way to get it.
In this particular review, the customer was happy with the service itself. What tainted her entire experience was the fact that it cost significantly more than she thought it would.
I agree with this customer. As a service business, you should provide your customers with a quote that is as accurate as possible, being sure to fully disclose any fees the customer is expected to pay. When it comes time to write the check, there shouldn’t be any surprises!
The 5 Basic Types of Unsatisfied Customers
Now that we’ve dug into what makes customers complain, let’s talk about the different types of unsatisfied customers. A study by the University of Florida found that there are five basic types of “complainers.” They all come with different attitudes, beliefs, and needs—which means you might need to adapt your responses to each.
Let’s take a look:
- The Meek Customer: This customer usually doesn’t complain. Instead, they’ll simply stop doing business with you.
- The Aggressive Customer: This customer doesn’t hesitate to complain, and when they do, it’s often loud and longwinded. They don’t like excuses when receiving a response.
- The High-Roller Customer: This customer has high expectations when it comes to service quality. They are willing to pay what it takes to get the results they want. When they complain, it’s usually with reason.
- The Rip-Off Customer: This customer isn’t actually interested in having their issue solved. Rather, they want to get something for free. They’ll often say that your solutions or responses aren’t “good enough.” When dealing with this person, it’s best to back up your comments with evidence or data to show you’re being objective.
- The Chronic Complainer Customer: Even if this person is a repeat customer, they’ll always manage to find something wrong. Their mission is to complain, and they never seem to be satisfied. Yet, they keep coming back. Patience is the best way to deal with this person. Unlike other types of complainers, they usually appreciate your efforts to solve their problems.
5 Simple Steps for Responding to Customer Complaints
The essential thing to remember when handling bad reviews is that it’s not just the complaining customer who will see your response—it’s everyone who considers doing business with you.
When I turned 18, I was ecstatic about being a new adult. Five days after my “coming of age,” I decided to finally get the tattoo I had wanted for three years. Before booking my artist, I did some homework and looked at reviews for several studios.
Many were impressive, and others were off-putting. What helped me the most in my decision was how the owner or artist responded to the negative feedback they received. Artists who responded with curse words, rude antics, or poor grammar—and who refused to take responsibility—lost my respect. Those who accepted the feedback and outlined their next steps gained it.
So before you kick your response process into high-gear, let’s establish a strategy that will help you remain professional and objective when dealing with complainers.
1. Listen to the Customer’s Complaint or Feedback Entirely
Getting a low-star review is frustrating. It might even make you emotional—and for perfectly good reasons. You’ve worked hard on your business, and it hurts to know that someone not only found the service you provided unsatisfactory, but also might actively deter others from seeking you out.
You might be tempted to start jamming out a response immediately, but the first step in resolving negative feedback is to listen to the complaint in its entirety and always treat it as legitimate.
If you’re dealing with someone like the Chronic Complainer, they might leave reviews over the most minuscule details. But responding with defensiveness and treating their complaint as invalid is a surefire way to burn bridges.
2. Apologize and Thank the Customer for their Feedback
Next, sincerely apologize to the customer for the experience they had. If you really want to make a professional impression, thank them for the feedback.
Note that apologizing doesn’t equal pleading guilty. You still have the opportunity to explain, ask questions, and offer objective solutions—but coming off as snarky or self-righteous will only further hamper your efforts to right the ship with the customer.
Ideally, you’ll take this step in public and in private. After posting your response to the review, get in touch with the customer directly via email or a phone call. This will not only show your customer that you’re genuinely committed to making things right—it might also help you regain their business.
3. Explain Your Solution Clearly
Remember the review we looked at for the HVAC company? Check out how the owner responded:
First, they apologized. Second, they empathized with the customer and assured them that their feedback was valid. Lastly, they clearly stated their plan of action: refunding the customer.
Failing to offer a clear solution does more than leave customers confused on next steps. It signals to them and everyone else that you aren’t taking responsibility and don’t value feedback.
Of course, this likely isn’t true—so avoid giving off that impression!
4. Empathize with the Customer (and Don’t Be Snobby)
The last thing upset customers want to hear is excuses and robotic responses. Spend some time looking through company replies to Google reviews. A good chunk of them sound like they were copied straight from a generic review playbook. Bleh.
Apologizing is important, but empathy takes the cake when it comes to validating and mitigating customer concerns. Phrases as simple as “I can imagine how you’re feeling” or “I understand why that made you upset” can make a world of difference.
5. Keep the Feedback in Mind Going Forward
One negative review doesn’t mean only one person has that complaint. They’re just the only one vocalizing it. Choosing to ignore bad feedback means potentially ignoring many more customers. Remember the meek complainers we discussed earlier? They might not leave a review, but they won’t hesitate to walk away.
To avoid this, HelpScout recommends logging complaints you receive so you can track trends. This will make it much easier to identify and correct weak points in your business.
Customer complaints and low-star reviews aren’t encouraging to any owner or service provider, but they’re also far from unhelpful. The intimidating boxes of disappointing text you used to see as a stumbling block to growth can actually be a great tool for positioning yourself as a professional, winning the respect of potential customers, and regaining the trust of the complainer.
With these tips, you’ll be responding to negative feedback with flying colors in no time.