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5 Legal Ways for a Business to Respond to Customer Complaints

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 11, 2014 8:50 AM

Your small business may not get complaints often, but failing to respond to them properly can be costly.

A Chinese restaurant in Brookline, Massachusetts, got a taste of customer dissatisfaction from a Harvard business professor who claimed he had been overcharged by all of $4. As Boston.com explains, what followed was an email back-and-forth between the restaurant and the patron -- an exchange that went viral.

Want to make sure your small business deals properly with customer complaints? Check out these five ways:

1. Hire a Customer Service Team.

You might only need one person to be responsible for your company's customer service response, but you do need someone. Especially with complaints coming in from social media, a smartly written, timely response can save you both customer goodwill and time.

2. Identify a Troublemaking Employee.

Often a customer complaint will identify one employee or representative of your business as the root cause. While your business should do its due diligence in investigating whether these complaints are genuine, it should also be swift and decisive in disciplining employees for misconduct (e.g., racist comments).

3. Respond to BBB Complaint.

Although the Better Business Bureau is not a government agency, you should probably take complaints lodged with the BBB seriously. Businesses are typically given 30 days to respond to a BBB complaint once the Bureau contacts the targeted business, and most any response will likely close the complaint. Again, there is no chance of actual legal sanctions, but a BBB complaint is something you probably shouldn't ignore.

4. Refuse Service.

Tired of dealing with prima donna customers or those you feel are simply harassing your business? Your business can refuse service to these complaining curmudgeons, so long as you make it clear that it isn't for a discriminatory reason.

5. Do Nothing.

Don't feel the need to get involved in some flame war with an upset customer over Yelp. If the disgruntled customer threatens to sue, your business can wait until you see an actual civil complaint before you start battening down the legal hatches. In the case of the Harvard professor versus the Chinese restaurant, the media attention surrounding the complaint turned out to be a major boon for business.

And of course, you can always consult with a business attorney about how to deal with customer complaints.

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