The Quick Guide to Working with an Unhappy Customer

Customer service is critical to success. Check out this quick guide to working with an unhappy #customer.

As we all run our businesses or work for a company, it is our jobs to win over our customers. We deal with happy customers and sometimes we encounter the unhappy customer.

Today we are going to talk about how to handle the customers who are very unhappy. They’re upset as in they pretty much hate you because you have on the company’s shirt that did them wrong. How do we win them over? How do we bring them back to the side of the table who still wants to do business with us?

Real Life & Real Unhappy Customer

At my last job, I found myself in a situation with an unhappy customer who was extremely upset.

I greeted the customer and he immediately yelled at me. He wanted to know who he could verbally complain to and who he could write. I told him I could listen to his complaints and assist him. I also told him I could get him information on who he could write if he would like and asked the customer to have a seat so we could talk and research his issue. The customer sat down and explained what he felt was wrong. He began yelling at me and waving his hands in my face.

However, by the end of our conversation, he left thanking me and telling me he felt much better. He even wanted to know of someone he could write to express his appreciation for receiving assistance rather than who he could write to complain. He went from an unhappy customer to a happy customer in just one conversation. You may be asking yourself…

How did we get to that point?

  • I listened. I gave him my full attention and let him voice his concerns. Careful not to interrupt him, I never lost track of what he said in my own efforts to formulate the answers. And even though my emotions were heightened because of the yelling and finger pointing, I kept them in check.
  • I took ownership. One of the worst things you can do is make about they/them/their. When the person sees you in that shirt or with the company’s email signature, you’re all one entity as far as they’re concerned.
  • I regurgitated his story back to him; it was very important I understood his story and I made sure I understood his end goal.
  • I showed empathy, politeness, and respect. You can change a lot of people’s demeanor when you show empathy and follow the golden rule. This is where things started to turn around. He realized I genuinely wanted to help him.
  • I explained to the customer how we got to the place we were. How he received the results he received. I explained the process and I explained how he/we could get to an alternative result. He had a lot of questions and it took a good 20 minutes for him to understand the full process but I took the time to help him understand why.
  • I provided him with the tools to get on the path to success. We then reviewed paperwork he needed and I assisted him with properly filling it out. I explained the process from point forward, how much time it could take, and what he could expect.

Same Unhappy Customer, Different Results

A colleague nearby came over to talk with me after assisting the customer. This colleague had also spoken with the customer and did not have as much success. She commended me on the conversation and said, “You remained so calm when he was yelling at you and you never got rude back.” Being rude would have gotten neither one of us anywhere. When I started the conversation I started with two goals.

The first was to assist the customer and to help them reach their goal. The second was to change the customer’s mind about our business and the people who work for the business. Sometimes all it takes is a person speaking to you, listening to you, and showing they care to change someone’s mind. In the world of where we like to hide behind our computers, cell phones, and in some cases mailed letters, this example shows we NEED face to face interaction. Had I not been at the event where I served this customer, he may have never been assisted and helped. He may have continued to think negatively and he could have continued to not have understanding or the tools needed to help him reach his goal. His frustration would have continued to boil over.

Below is a seven-step-fail-proof way to win your customer back. I have used this numerous times over the last eight years.

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Listen.
  3. Understand the customers end goal.
  4. Show empathy and respect.
  5. If applicable, explain how and why the customer received the result they received. This step may not always apply but when it does, explain.
  6. Provide the customer the tools they need to get on the path to success and reach their end goal.
  7. Follow through. Make sure to follow through with whatever you promise the customer.

Tack these up in your office so when you are dealing with an unhappy customer, you can quickly look and refresh your mind on how to handle the situation.

Ultimately, these conversations we are having with customers is what makes our living. In the case where we have an upset customer, how we have these crucial conversations, can make our business succeed or fail. It is critical we and our staff knows how to have these types of conversations. If you want to learn more about how to have crucial conversations to assist not only your unhappy customers but in other areas of your life, check out our post on crucial conversations.

Customer service is critical to success. Check out this quick guide to working with an unhappy #customer.