How to Deal with Unhappy Customers

How to Deal with Unhappy Customers

by Liz Krause on December 8, 2011 · 10 comments

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

That’s a quote by Bill Gates. Learning how to deal with unhappy customers is a critical component of running a successful business.

Today Liz Krause is going to show you various ways to deal with unhappy customers and situations that you will most likely face when running your own business.

Unhappy customers are still customers

Unhappy customers express their feelings because they still want to be a customer. They just want you to fix their problem. Here are some ideas on how to resolve issues with your customers.

Talk to them directly on the phone

Resolving an issue can be as simple as sorting out any misunderstandings with a customer directly over the phone. This approach is more personal than communicating via email and the customer appreciates it.

Offer a refund

If keeping a customer means offering a refund or exchange, it’s worth it. Providing additional customer services such as paying for shipping can go a long way towards building a better customer relationship.

Know when to let them go

Sometimes the only way to make a customer happy is to lose them as a customer. This is particularly true with services when your client wants out of a contract.  Getting out of a contract typically requires a termination fee, however in sticky situations it can be better for both parties to negotiate a reduced price or agree on no penalty at all.

No matter what outcome you choose, always be patient and treat them with respect.

Respond Logically, Not Emotionally

Customers don’t appreciate how much time you put into your business. So when they complain about one of your products, it’s easy to become defensive and overreact. Here are a few tips to overcome the temptation to react emotionally.

Be logical and practical

Your goal is to solve whatever problem your customer has. If they don’t like the way you designed something – fix it. If they think you’re painting job is slopping – fix it. If something you shipped to them is damaged or doesn’t work, offer a refund or ship them a new one.

Focus on the solution, not the emotions and your customer will be happy to work with you again.

It’s business, not personal

One of the biggest downfalls I have seen in the business world (and in my own business) is when people in a company take things personally. Usually when a customer has a complaint it is not about you – it’s about the product.

Look at the problem logically and ask yourself what is the real issue at hand? What is the root of the problem and how do I fix it so it doesn’t happen again? Find a solution that is a win-win for both parties.

Address issues in a timely manner

Unhappy customers usually just want to vent to anyone and everyone they can – on and offline.   That means you need to fix this problem before it spreads.

A good example is the Netflix debacle that when they raised their prices without any explanation or effort to soften the blow.  Customers were enraged, not about the price increase, but by the way they were treated.  Instead of trying to smooth things over, Netflix defiantly charged ahead which caused many of their customers to cancel their subscriptions.

Had Netflix seriously considered the posts, comments, tweets, and other online feedback by customers, maybe they could have avoided the financial mess they are now in.

What to do when it is too late?

I can’t speak for Netflix, but in my previous business we had a customer who made some bad assumptions about our service and posted his frustration on a forum.  When we saw the post, instead of firing back a public retort, we talked to the customer privately. In the end the customer apologized and felt bad he used the forum to vent instead of coming to us directly.

Then we asked if he’d mind deleting the post, which he did and within 24 hours it was removed.

Working in business means dealing with customers – happy and not so happy.  In the end, finding a win-win solution will benefit both your customers.

What if Your Customer is Angry?

How to Deal with Angry CustomersSee how I dealt with a hilarious email from a very angry customer:
How to Deal with Angry Customers >>

Photo by: J.G. Park

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate January 11, 2012 at 6:24 am

These recommendations are very wise and useful. Everybody can be emotional and restrained and it can be of a great use if you learn how to be restrained when it is necessary, so you will not destroy important moments with some negative and very often absolutely not useful emotions. Business needs clear and adequate behavior and decisions.

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2 Network Solutions Webhosting Overview March 8, 2012 at 7:07 am

Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful information
particularly the last part I care for such information much. I was looking for this particular
information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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3 Warren Kuan March 24, 2012 at 9:26 am

This is the REALISTIC part in business.
Last week, i manage to gain back my sales after having
a small quarrel with customer due to communication errors.
I act PROFESSIONALLY on every things she mentioned, alas, i got back the sales!!

I wish to read more post on how to entertain or follow up clients effectively :)

THANKS, IT”S A GOOD ONE LIZ :D

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4 Tobias Wagner April 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Good points. In two words I would say – Be a Pro! Any unhappy customer can be turned into a happy one, and it’s up to you, as a business owner to find a solution. Thanks for the post Liz!

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5 rere27 July 7, 2012 at 6:24 am

great tips. i’ll keep them in mind when( God forbid) i have an angry customer.

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6 Ranjith Marakala December 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Question: What if I fail ?

Most important question an entrepreneur should ask: What if I fail? It’s what prevents people from making the leap to entrepreneur, but if answered propels them toward success. Everyone fails now and then – even the most successful entrepreneurs. What makes them different is they anticipate failures, learn from them and move on. There’s no better time to be an entrepreneur – there are more free and low-cost resources for getting started than ever before.Most important question an entrepreneur should ask: What if I fail? It’s what prevents people from making the leap to entrepreneur, but if answered propels them toward success. Everyone fails now and then – even the most successful entrepreneurs. What makes them different is they anticipate failures, learn from them and move on. There’s no better time to be an entrepreneur – there are more free and low-cost resources for getting started than ever before.

Ranjith Marakala
CEO-OSREE
Bangalore

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7 FELIX MARSH July 30, 2013 at 2:34 am

Great article. I always have at the back of my mind (when dealing with unhappy customers) that if you look after them, deal with their problem and respect their right to complain then there is a good chance that they will not bad mouth to their friends about the terrible experience. Instead they will tell people how well they were treated and accept that whatever happened was a mistake and not the norm. Reverse a negative situation for them and for the company.

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8 Ajeet October 8, 2013 at 4:55 am

Unhappy customers can be a pain, but not necessarily. One should see them as a valuable source of “market research” and learn from their grievances.

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9 Kelly November 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

Thanks for this post! I love topics like this because customers really are what makes businesses go’round. When dealing with unhappy customers I think its important to not only make things right, but make them better. What can a small business owner do to turn things around? From perks (i.e. like free shipping) to thoughtful moves (i.e. like personally following up), an unhappy customer can be transformed into a cheerleader for your business and brand. I think when its reasonably feasible going the extra mile to turn a customer’s frown upside down can really pay off in loyalty, brand buzz and good word of mouth. This article does a great job at pointing out the other side of this coin (knowing when to walk away etc.) but if the positive potential is there, I say grab it!

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10 Sami Stainsburry November 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Its definitely true that by keeping a cool head and looking for solutions, you can usually find a solution that will make people happy. Most people are pretty reasonable if they can really sense that you are genuinely trying to help them!

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