Upset Customers? Try These Steps to Turn Things Around

John Krautzel
Posted by

The way your company responds to an upset customer can either strengthen or sabotage the relationship. By training service department workers and other customer-facing staff members to handle complaints in a positive and constructive manner, you can build lasting customer loyalty.

Let Them Vent

In many cases, customers do not bring problems to a company until they have become too big to manage. As a result, emotions tend to be high, turning otherwise reasonable individuals into angry, irrational people. The first step in dealing with an upset customer is to give him time to express his frustration and explain the problem completely. Interrupt as little as possible, and aim for a tone that is respectful, courteous and not at all defensive. This strategy lets the person know that you take his complaint seriously and gives him time to cool down.

Apologize and Empathize

When you're dealing with an upset customer, a sincere apology is necessary. After all, no matter how valid or invalid the complaint is, the person's reaction is real. Tread carefully when apologizing to ensure that it sounds genuine — an insincere apology can escalate a situation. Try a statement such as, "I'm so sorry that we didn't deliver your product on time. I know that can cause production bottlenecks." This simple apology takes responsibility, empathizes with the person and demonstrates that you understand the ramifications.

Get a Clear Picture

Once an upset customer has aired his grievances and calmed down, take time to investigate further. Ask for clarifying details to help you get a better picture of the problem, and request any additional contextual information. If the person's software crashes regularly, for example, it's helpful to know what other programs were open at the time so you can spot patterns. Then, research the situation by speaking to relevant people in the company or service department, looking up data logs or asking the customer for key documents. In doing so, you can avoid misconceptions and reassure the person that you take their issue seriously.

Provide a Great Solution

In the end, a great solution is the ultimate way to turn an upset customer into a repeat buyer. To retain the person's business, make every effort to provide a resolution that is more than satisfactory. Work within your company's policies to solve the person's problem. Then, do whatever is in your power to sweeten the deal. Offer a discount, for example, or provide a complimentary service visit. If you have no wiggle room, make a point to deliver the solution as quickly as possible.

At some point in your career, you're likely to run into at least one upset customer. Deescalating the situation and going above and beyond to provide great service can transform the interaction and turn the person into a long-time buyer.

Image courtesy of Ambro at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch