How to handle dissatisfied customers

3 MINS Team

It’s a customer service situation that happens in every small business—from time to time, you’ll get an unhappy customer. Sometimes, those customers are just plain unreasonable, and if not handled properly, these situations can quickly escalate. These days, providing good customer service to unhappy customers is especially important. One dissatisfied customer can ruin your business reputation on social media or on online review sites.

So how can you defuse angry customers before their rage explodes and does lasting damage? Try these customer service tactics.

  • Start by listening. Often, unhappy customers simply want to be heard. Even more than they want a solution to their problem, they want to feel that someone is really listening to them. Unfortunately, it’s common to feel defensive when dealing with an unhappy customer. Instead of really listening, you may be mentally preparing comebacks and thinking of what you’re going to say next. Stop, make eye contact, and simply focus on taking in what the customer is saying.
  • Summarize and empathize. Before offering a solution, make sure you have understood the customer’s complaint. Check this by rephrasing to summarize what they’ve just told you. “Let me make sure I’ve understood you correctly, sir. You paid for express shipping and you did not receive your order until two weeks later, is that correct?” Once you’ve clarified the issue, empathize. “Sir, I certainly understand why you are upset. That definitely should not have happened, and I’m so sorry you had this problem.”
  • No excuses. Employees should never make excuses such as stating that something is not company policy or that they aren’t authorized to resolve the issue. This will only infuriate the customer more. If a supervisor is needed to resolve the issue, the employee should get the supervisor immediately.
  • Offer specific solutions. Instead of saying what they can’t do, employees should always offer positive solutions for what they can do. If there is one standard solution, provide it: “Sir, I am going to refund your rush delivery fee to your credit card, as well as send you a $10 gift card valid on your next order.” If there are several options, present them and let the customer choose among them. This gives him a sense of taking back control of the problem.
  • Remain calm. Angry customers may yell, curse or insult you personally. Don’t let it get to you. Yes, it is difficult, but in general, remaining calm and speaking quietly will help calm the customer down, too. It’s hard to stay mad at someone who won’t get mad back. If you join the customer in raising your voice, things can quickly get out of control. Behave as if your interaction were taking place on television for millions to see—because with social media, it essentially is.

Photo by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. 

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