3 Tips to Handle an Unhappy Customer

The unhappy customer who is complaining

We’ve all had them.  Some yell, some cause a scene, some silently simmer.  Believe it or not, it is a very good thing to have a customer that is unhappy because you have the opportunity to regain their trust and even turn them into one of your most loyal customers ever.

Many customers tell us that they will even spend more money with us the next time they return after we’ve handled a complaint better than they ever would have expected someone to do.

So before you start to panic when that next unhappy customer storms into your office or calls you on the phone and has already told the receptionist that they are very upset, stay calm and follow these simple steps.

1)   Apologize Immediately

Even if you aren’t at fault, the apology is crucial.  Now keep in mind, it is very possible to apologize without taking the blame.  Everyone who has ever felt wronged really wants to hear a genuine apology.  When you or someone in your company has made a mistake, it goes without saying that you need to accept responsibility and apologize.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m so truly sorry that I forgot to file those papers on time.”

In the case when it is not your fault, or even the customer’s fault, and they’ve contacted you to vent or to resolve the issue, here is my suggested wording…

“Mrs. Smith, I’m so sorry that this situation is happening.”

Many times it is the customer themselves that is causing the situation to go south.  Be sure not to point this out to them.  You can re-educate them during the follow up.  For now, only apologies will be accepted by the customer.

2)  Use Empathy

Empathy is the golden piece of this equation.  Saying sorry is a great start, but it simply isn’t enough.  The customer appreciates the apology, but they really want to know that you feel their pain.  Keep in mind that the customer is usually more irritated by the need and time necessary to resolve the situation than the issue itself.

“I know it is really frustrating when the process is delayed due to paperwork and logisitics.  You wanted to get this taken care of and now you are forced to wait.  I’m sorry.”

The main thing here is to let the customer know that you feel their pain and that you would most likely feel the same way if you were in their shoes.  That’s what they need at this point.  You won’t be able to fix the problem until you understand their perspective.  This step does that.

3)  Make it Better Than Right

This is when you show your customers that you are in it to win it and keep their business. Not only do you need to fix the problem, you need to do it in a way that not only makes up for the initial problem, but also makes the customer feel good about it.  My suggestion is to offer the customer no more than three solutions, all of which you are confident will work in their best interest.  Your customer will be left with the feeling that they’ve made out better in the end than if there were no problem in the first place.

Should you find yourself challenged to come up with an acceptable fix, simply ask the customer what they would like to see happen.  You’ll be surprised to see how reasonable they actually will be.  Often times, they’ll ask for far less than you were prepared to have to offer.

Bonus Tip – Follow Up Wins Every Time

This is your time to shine.  Not only have you fixed the problem to their satisfaction, now you are going to go the extra mile to truly show how much you appreciate their business.  You are going to call them within a few days to again apologize for the situation happening and to find out how they are doing with the resolution. This is when they will thank you for the follow up, your help in resolving the issue, and really give you some honest feedback that you can apply.

Believe me when I tell you that none of your competition is doing this.  They don’t feel that it’s worth the time. Or they think it’s important, but they don’t make the time.  Service is the best and most cost effective way to set yourself apart and this one step alone has huge payoffs.

This may also be the time that you discover the resolution did not work or they are still not happy.   Go through the process again and work with them until they are.

I’d love to hear about any companies that you feel do go above and beyond in how they handle their customer complaints.

Please share your thoughts and opinions here...