Is the customer always right? Maybe not, but in their own mind, they are. If you’ve ever had to deal with angry or unhappy customers, then you know how difficult and upsetting that encounter can be. When a customer is unhappy, it’s easy to get defensive and feel that you’re being attacked. Your first impulse may be to shout back, but don’t let your emotions take over. There are better ways to handle an angry or unhappy customer. Here are five that will help you handle a difficult situation in a way that reflects favorably on you and your company or business.

1. Apologize

When a customer is unhappy, it’s usually because a customer service representative (or whoever is in charge of handling that customer’s problem) handled a situation wrong or made a mistake. But instead of apologizing for their mistakes, customer service representatives will often ignore the problem – or make an excuse. This is a huge mistake: when a customer is unhappy, an apology is a simple way to turn a potential customer into a repeat customer.

Apologize even if you don’t agree with their stance. Show empathy too.  For example: “I understand how inconvenient this is for you, and I want to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.” Sometimes that’s all a customer needs to hear to feel better about the situation. It’s an affirmation that you’re listening and that you care. Then, make sure customer service reps are trained to deal with such a situation so you don’t have a repeat performance.

2. Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers

Ask questions, be polite, and listen to the customer. Depending on the situation you can ask for their involvement in resolving this. For example: “I want to resolve this with you so that you’re happy. Can I get your permission to look at your order more closely?”

Why is this effective? The customer wants to be heard, and when you listen, it diffuses some of their anger. Plus, you’ll get a better idea of potential problems that need resolving. Your customer may have a legitimate complaint and knowing it exists gives you a chance to prevent future recurrences of the same issue. That can make your business better! So listen to what they’re saying.

3. Be Empathetic

To express empathy, think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed and what you would want someone to say to you. Compassion is key here. For example: “I am sorry that this has been a disappointing experience for you. I know it’s frustrating and I’d like to work with you to resolve it. You’ll be surprised at how far expressing empathy will take you. When you express empathy, it shows that your customer’s experience is important to you. It also makes the process of resolving the situation easier for everyone involved.

4. Just do it!

It is difficult to make a change on the spot, but if there is something you can do quickly to address the situation, then do it. For example: “I’ll try to fix this for you quickly. I apologize for any inconvenience you’ve experienced and will keep you updated.” If you can make things better fast, then the customer will be more pleased than if your company drags their feet on sorting things out.

Keep in mind that the customer is usually not angry at your company. They are angry with the person who dealt with them initially or something about the company that caused frustration. If you can resolve the issue quickly, you’ll regain their favor and they may even become a strong advocate for your brand.

5. Customer Service Is Everything to You and Your Business

Where do unhappy customers go? Almost always, the customer will move on to another store or another product or perhaps even another company altogether. Even worse, they may leave a negative review online or badmouth your company. Don’t let your ego cost you a customer or harm your business’s brand or reputation.

The Bottom Line

Businesses that deal with unhappy or angry customers quickly and empathically retain customers and build a reputation of offering top-notch customer service. That’s the kind of reputation you want! Customers are increasingly vocal on social media, and unhappy customers are more likely to share bad experiences than good ones. Don’t give them a reason to post something that portrays your company in a negative light.


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