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The one thing to do to handle complaints on public forums well

Complaint management is an Art some people say. And it’s true that given the number of recommendations (sometimes contradictory) that exist about how to handle complaints, firms must be very agile to know what to do at the right moment to ensure customer satisfaction.

What to do when customers complain on online public forums ?

The challenge posed by online forums is huge. They can damage a brand reputation and be the starting point of negative word-of-mouth.

What should you do when faced with complains and bad comments ? A recent research we carried out gives a simple answer to that question.

One thing to do to handle online complaints well

Our research is based, once again, ob complex structtural equation modelling (SEM). We analyzed 8 years of data from a French online forum and studied the direct effects of 31 variables. And guess what … One proved to dominate all others. Even more interesting, this variable had not been studied as such ever before.

Solve the issue and give evidences immediately

Past recommendations told managers to give compensation, apologize, etc …. All this seemed inefficient in light of the following : rather solve the original problem than give compensation, and give evidences in your answer that the problem will be solved the same day.

One concrete example

Imagine that an online purchase was not delivered on time. The customer complains that he hasn’t received his/her purchase. What our research tells is that the online retailer should not attempt to give a refund or provide a voucher. Rather the retailer should take the time to investigate where the purchased good is and provide in its answer evidences that the complaint will be solved shortly, for instance by proving that it’s been shipped and will arrive shortly.


Complaint management is a highly difficult task and requires to master the effect of all variables. The methods we are using are able to give precise and meaningful recommendations to manager but require that many variables be included. A though job, but a rewarding one for those who implement the recommendations. Don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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