Convert a Customer Complaint into a Sale – 8 Tips for Help Desk Staff

By Joe The IT Guy


Customer complaints are a standard part of business life; no matter what your organization does, or how carefully you execute your business operations, you will get customer complaints. This is actually a good thing though; however, many organizations view complaints negatively and thus do not deal with them effectively through the right kind of approach to customer complaint management.

Customer complaints certainly carry negative connotations which is why, when a complaint comes in, it’s common for alarm bells to start ringing and perhaps panic to ensue. However, instead of seeing complaints as an indicator that your organization is not performing well, see them as an opportunity – a chance to learn how to be/do better, a chance to deliver exceptional customer service, and even a chance to gain more sales.

Here, I offer 8 customer service chat tips which help desk staff can use to convert customer complaints into new sales opportunities.

1. Respond Quickly to Live Chat Requests (and Within Conversations)

Customers making a complaint need to feel valued by your organization and they need to feel heard. If you’re using live chat for support (and complaint handling), and not responding quickly enough, there is a good chance that your customers will feel ignored and take their business elsewhere. But, when you respond quickly to customer complaints you’re proving to your customer that they are a priority, that you take complaint-handling seriously, and that their needs are important to you. This happy customer is then more likely to buy from your organization again. Plus, the end-of-chat “Is there anything else that I can help you with?” question is a great opportunity to turn a customer query into the start of a new sale.

2. Take Responsibility for Customer Issues

More often than not, angry customers are likely to calm down when you simply take responsibility for their problem and show them that you’re working to resolve it. Don’t try to wiggle out of it by blaming others, or try to cover up the truth, because – chances are – they’ll see right through you and your ineffective complaint handling process.

Live chat offers organizations a unique position to add a human element into an online experience. So, use it to your advantage – be open, honest, and transparent about what has happened and what you will do to sort it out. No one can ask for more than that. And the human-based rapport that is built during the live chat is likely to influence the customer’s future purchasing decisions (either immediate or longer term).

3. Use Canned Messages to Improve the Speed of Response

In reinforcing live chat tip #1, speed is of the essence when it comes to complaint handling – you need to respond quickly when a customer initiates a live chat, but you also need to keep responding quickly throughout the chat.

Canned messages are prepared responses to common questions that help desk staff can use to ensure that the flow of the conversation is not interrupted by needing to type long responses. Here, rather than having to manually type out every response, canned messages can be sent with just the click of a button (and potentially a little tweak to reflect the exact customer situation and issue).

4. Provide Compensation

Sometimes simply saying “I’m sorry” isn’t quite enough to placate an upset customer who feels their time/money has been wasted. To display how you value them as a customer, and how much you want to keep them onboard, you can offer compensation for their troubles. This doesn’t always need to be a payment and instead could be in the form of a coupon, or discount code, towards their next purchase. Not only does this complaint handling policy make your customer happy, because they get a “free gift,” it also pushes them gently into another purchase with your organization.

5. Use Chat History to Improve the Customer Experience

Using live chat, you can pull up previous transcripts for returning customers. This method allows you to immediately understand your customer’s problem and they will be happy to not have to repeat the issue (or just that you are able to recognize previous issues they have experienced).

Being up-to-speed on the customer’s complaint, and past issues/queries, is a great way to make your customer feel like an individual, and a valued customer, rather than just another number in the queue. With this elevated customer experience likely to influence their next purchasing decision.

6. Be Thankful for the Customer’s Business

People don’t like to be taken for granted; if a customer feels like your organization doesn’t really care about them, then they’ll likely go and find one that does. Live chat adds a human element to the online complaint handling experience, so use it to make your organization more human.

For instance, be grateful to your customer for: (a) being a customer and (b) highlighting a problem that you can learn from. It’s a tiny gesture, but it can mean a great deal to an unhappy customer and, when they see how much you value them, they’re far more likely to return.

7. Follow Up with the Customer

Great customer complaint handling can end in a follow-up, from you to the customer, to check that they’re happy and that everything is now fully resolved. Such a follow-up is the final step in proving to your customer that you have prioritized them and care about your service to them. You could even add a special offer in the follow up, that isn’t normally available to others, to demonstrate how much you value them. And, as with live chat tip #4, it again pushes them gently into another purchase with your organization.

8. Escalate Complaints at the Right Time

All good customer complaint management processes have an escalation process. You will want to resolve as many complaints via live chat as you can but sometimes you simply won’t be able to do so. When this happens, it’s important to understand the escalation process – is there another agent who knows the answer that can assist? Do you need to log an urgent second-line ticket (or route this one on) because the issue cannot be fixed at the first line? Whatever the process, ensure that your customer is aware of what is happening and keep them updated throughout.

An escalation can also be given a positive spin – after all, it’s the helpdesk agent “going above and beyond” to help with the customer issue as quickly as possible. Which, as with the previous 7 live chat tips, can be used as a platform to gently upsell or cross-sell to the customer (once their initial issue is resolved).


These 8 customer service chat tips will help your help desk team to stop viewing complaints in a negative light, and to start turning them into positive experiences for your organization and its customers.

Customer complaints – in moderation – are not bad for business, so don’t shy away from them. Instead use them to become better and to generate even more sales through happier customers who differentiate your organization, from its competition, through the quality of its support and customer experience. So, aim to turn those customer complaints into additional sales.

Finally, fit-for-purpose help desk software will provide you with the live chat functionality that allows your help desk agents to both do more and to do it better (especially when it comes to handling customer complaints). From managing multiple customer conversations, prioritizing customers, recording transcripts, creating canned messages, to ultimately providing customers with speedy resolutions and a superior customer experience.

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