How to Handle Customer Complaints and Returns


Whether you’ve been in business a short time or are a seasoned veteran, sooner or later you will be faced with a return or an unsatisfied customer.

In this age of social media and rapid connections it’s important to get this right – to handle unhappy customers with as much speed and grace as you can possibly muster.

Here are some tips to consider:

As you are setting up shop, before you even have your first customer, think about your return policy and have a plan of action.

  • Make sure your refund policy is clearly stated in several places. (ie booth signage, website checkout, reciepts or electronic invoices).
  • Time limit – does your customer have 7 days, 2 weeks or a month to initiate the return?
  • Shipping – make it clear weather or not you will refund for the initial shipping. If you are on ebay and the customer claims “Item not as described” ebay will make you refund the initial shipping costs as well as the price of the item sold. Of course that’s not an issue if you are selling at a craft show.
  • Offer a replacement for defective items
  • Think about how you will handle items that arrive at their destination damaged
  • Even if you suspect that the customer damaged the item (whether they misunderstood its’ use/directions or for some other reason) you might accept the return. It only takes a few minutes for them to complain about you on 11 different social media sites … after you spent time so much time luring customers into your store with hours and hours of social media work.
  • If you are selling items that are NOT one of a kind you may want to be sure to provide a receipt with each and every transaction. Accept returns with receipt only. Just make sure to state that in your return policy.

How to handle the return:

  • Thank the customer for their feedback
  • Don’t get defensive. It’s not a personal judgement. It’s just business.
  • Acknowledge mistakes (if the item was defective or packaged poorly) and offer to help.
  • Process refunds immediately – explain how long it will take for the money/item to be returned to them.
  • Thank them for giving your company a try – even if they don’t buy again they may recommend you to a friend who is looking for items you sell.
  • Ask if there is anything else you can do for them and finish off with one last thank you.



As difficult as returns or upset customers are it is a great opportunity for feedback. You can learn such things as:

  • How to make your products better
  • How to make your marketing better
  • Who your customer really is
  • Who your product/service is really for
  • How you can improve the quality of your product
  • How to improve your return policy


Make the return process straightforward and easy and turn it into a pleasant transaction rather than an unpleasant chore. You never know, you may not only keep the customer but encourage him/her to spread positive word-of-mouth about you or your business.

By: Vicki O’Dell , The Creative Goddess

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