Dealing with upset customers

Receiving positive feedback from your satisfied customers is always nice, but the real test of your business acumen lies in dealing with the upset ones. Unfortunately, despite efforts, mistakes happen. When they do, how you tackle them determines your success.

A talking customer is an opportunity

Let’s look at the opportunity. When the client is upset, she is willing to talk. And you have an opportunity to listen what she has got. Most likely, she has a genuine issue. If she had, you have every reason to alleviate the problem and see to it that the client is satisfied. Even assume, the client is being a little unreasonable. She wants a little more than what the implied promise is. That is an opportunity to show your customers that you mean what you say in your marketing materials. :)

Fix Your ProcessesUpset customers, client service

There’s another opportunity. An upset client is a symptom. Studies reveal that a small percentage of upset clients actually complain. It means that the clients are just a tip of an iceberg. Most likely, with every such disappointed client, there is a loose end in the process. If you do some soul searching, you will come up with some problem that you can fix and help you have more satisfied clients. I have learnt that it’s better to be prepared to listen to complaints. You never know what you might be missing out on unless you get critical feedback from them.

An upset customer might interact with an employee in person or on the phone. Remember, when a customer is upset, he or she might seem to lash out on you as a person. They can get unruly and sometimes downright obnoxious. Excepting the odd one out, most customers are looking for someone in your company to listen patiently and solve their problem in a reasonable time. Just give them a smile, hear them out and solve the problem they have. That is it! The first lesson is that you must listen to the customer.

Receive the Angst with Pleasure

There is no need to take the diatribe personally, I realised that the customer doesn’t know me as a person and his or her angst is not meant to be directed at me unless it is my fault. Keep your cool throughout the talk, and be professional and considerate when you respond. A lot of such customers might have a genuine problem and even though I agree that their tone might be far from polite, their complaint needs to be heard objectively. A brief heartfelt apology is a good start. An abusive and angry customer generally calms down to a great extent if you approach the issue with an open mind after an apology. If I got defensive I immediately came across as not trying to look at the problem from his or her perspective. Listen carefully without interrupting. Make sure that you register the complaint fully the first time itself, asking a customer to repeat the problem again will portray inattentiveness.

In case this conversation is happening on the phone, I make sure to note down the real problems which might not be obvious if the customer is irate. After taking down all the details, I offer to call the customer back at a time convenient for him or her. This gives you time to calmly resolve the problem while letting the customer cool down and will avoid the problem from exacerbating. I know that I have spent a considerable amount in acquiring the customer, so I need to make an effort to retain him or her.

I found myself empathizing with such customers and deviating from standard company policy in a few cases to help them out. Be ready to do so, dealing with people means that you cannot always follow a rigid set of rules. Give them the attention they deserve as individuals rather than a complaint. A company policy needs to be flexible since my customer takes priority over it.

Followup and Solve

Choose your words wisely. There are ways of replying in an effective manner without upsetting the customer further. Offer them the best you can; if that still doesn’t appease them, transfer the problem to a superior and brief them effectively about the issue. As a final point, always remember to follow up on the problem with the customer once it gets fixed. Satisfactorily dealing with upset customers will go a long way in ensuring the success of your venture.

So, what do you do when a customer calls in with a complaint?

Dealing with upset customers

About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog

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(RSS). He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives.

Picture credits: Blatch Shermeee

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14 Comments

  • By nick, December 16, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    It’s common for upset customers to leave negative reviews on sites like Yelp or Citysearch, but what good does that do for the small business? The owner can’t even reply back to that negative posts.
    We wanted to solve this problem, so we’re developing an online suggestion box called feedbackjar.com.
    We want to allow the customer and business owner to resolve any issues before it’s too late. Moreover, we want to be a portal for the business owners to engage and build community with their customers.

  • By Chaitanya, December 16, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

    Nick, In my experience, upset customer do complain they vent it out on the websites you have mentioned. Good luck to you and feedbackjar.com

  • By Sachin, December 16, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

    Upset customer – a topic well picked up.

    Here is how we look at it. It is basically an opportunity to tie up with the customer in long term.

    At the end we are humans and the way we either complain or praise anyone is one of the extreme reaction and is rarely objective in nature. So try to get to the root and you will be happy to note that the issue can be resolved easily.

    While a customer is complaining, once the first emotional outburst is over half the issue is already resolved.

    And if you have a screaming customer at the other end, probably its a much better situation than a client who does not screams and simply walks away. A customer complaining is always a good sign that he still has the faith in you and wants you to listen and take corrective action

  • By Chaitanya, December 16, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

    Hey Sachin, you summed it all up very well!

  • By srinath, December 18, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

    Good article Chiatanya..

    Hey Sachin, your perception towards irate customers is good..

  • By Akshay, December 19, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

    “must listen to the customer”-point to be noted a million times…

    Ex-the following conversation-
    customer(c)-I have a phone and since two days the screen is totally blank.
    support(s)-Your kind name sir?
    c-Akshay
    s-Mr. Akshay, please describe your problem again..
    c-I said i have a phone with me which isn’t turning on for a the past two days
    s-Mr. Ankith(!!), Please get your phone to the nearest authorized service center and get it repaired.
    c-can i have the approximate cost of the repair??
    s-Yes Mr. Ankith, the…
    c-Im Akshay
    s-I’m sorry Mr. Akshay, As i was saying, the cost depends on the problem.
    c-I SAID I HAVE A DEAD SCREEN!!
    s-Oh, that would be 1500 Rs.
    c-with taxes??
    s-no, taxes would be extra.
    c-so tell me the total price..
    s-It depends on the product to be replaced.
    c-A NEW WORKING SCREEN, TOTAL PRICE PLEASE(turning angry)..
    s-oh.. that would be around 1625 rs;
    c-I stay in vidyaranyapura, where is the closest service center??
    s-that would be near malleshwaram, Mr Ankith.
    c-(turning furious, trying to control), thanks a lot!! (hangs up)

  • By Richard Lockyer, December 21, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

    I agree, its nice to have compliments but its negative feedback that strengthens your business. I use to work in the construction business and if a customer phoned up with an issue the sales team, rather than thinking doom and gloom, saw it as a great opportunity to build rapport and possibly sell some extras.

    P.S. Have you though of an affiliate sceme for your business it could work really well.

  • By Chaitanya, December 23, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

    Akshay, Interesting conversation! He never heard you!

    Richard, thanks for your comments and suggestions! I did think of an affiliate program but I would like to keep it low and focus on enhancing benefits to our our readers.

    Srinath, thanks for the comment.

  • By padmaja, January 4, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

    I feel customer are the people who make a business small or big successful with their contribution, i feel that a mandatory feedback process should be implement (as we have a customer care department we need a PRO for taking feedback) to get in touch with the customer for their valuable opinions, suggestion and about the services provided, and the negative feedback should be attend carefully so that they won’t come up again this will reduce the number of unsatisfied customers to some extent, Being a good listener to the irritated customer is really a challenging issue at the same time the people who handle the issue need to have a good knowledge and spontaneity in solving it, never argue with the customer or give negative remarks if the mistake is from customers side. Take his attention towards the probable solution in diplomatic way and make him understand the process of solving the issues keeping in view the company policies. If related to the other department of the business putting them to the right person and letting the concern people understand his problem would be a betting thing.

  • By Akshob, January 15, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    “Most Important when you bid for a project”

    Tell the buyer what you have understood about his project. He/she has to feel
    that you have understood the project.
    Keep the budget of the buyer in your mind.
    While bidding be frank and write about the project and what you think. For example if the buyer has asked your suggestions or something like that.
    And the MOST IMPORTANT thing is the amount you bid. It depends on the budget and also the type of project.
    Please make sure that you bid the right amount.
    If you bid high you might not get the project, if you bid less you are the looser. :D
    So always bid the right amount.

    http://www.p2w2.com/akshob

  • By Karen, January 19, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

    Usually the customer is satisfied if you listen and make an attempt to resolve the issue. Good post.

  • By Chaitanya Sagar, January 19, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

    Karen, you have aptly summarized the post.

  • By Jacob Bluhm, October 4, 2010 @ 8:01 am

    Upset customers is a part of the sales game. Here are my ‘Lessons for a customer in retail.’ http://wp.me/pN5G3-1o I hope you enjoy my entry. Good Days.

  • By Sarah, October 18, 2013 @ 12:53 am

    Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a material!
    present here at this website, thanks admin of this website.

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