By Carrie-ann | May 01, 2017 | Existing customers, Running a business

7 tips for dealing with an unhappy customer

Even the most successful enterprises experience the occasional irate customer. Where once this was largely a matter of receiving a hostile phone call or facing a furious client at your business premises, there are now social media sites like Facebook and Twitter which are increasingly being used publicly to vent dissatisfaction with businesses. As such, it has never been more important to be equipped with the tools for dealing with unhappy customers. There are seven basic rules.

Rule One: Keep Calm
As hard as it might be when a product or service of which you are rightly proud is noisily attacked by a customer, it is crucial that you maintain your calm. Losing your temper will escalate the dispute beyond repair. You’ve probably seen this scenario unfolding on Twitter:
– Customer publishes scathing criticism of a restaurant;
– Owner responds with a coruscating critique of the customer;
– Hundreds get involved in a forensic dissection of the argument;
– People take sides, often with the customer.

Rule Two: Isolate the Problem
You don’t want a cast of thousands witnessing a spat, so if a client approaches you at your place of business, try to usher him or her into your office, perhaps saying, “Let’s go somewhere quiet to see if we can resolve this”. Likewise, if the criticism appears online, ask the customer to send you a direct message or email so that you can understand all the facts and work towards a solution without being under the watchful gaze of bystanders.

Rule Three: Listen
Allow the customer to vent, and ask him or her for the exact details of the complaint. Repeating the story will help calm an angry person, and you will begin to see whether there is any merit in the criticism.

Rule Four: Sympathise and Apologise
Let the customer know that you understand that they are angry and are genuinely sorry that they have had such an upsetting experience with your business.

Rule Five: Find a Solution
Ask the customer what outcome he or she would like, and try to accommodate this so far as is realistically possible without harming your business. For example, if the client wants a full refund for services rendered, ask whether a discount and having the work carried out again wouldn’t be a better solution.

Rule Six: Keep Your Promises
If you promise to action a complaint, make sure you do it on a timely basis. If there are any delays, contact the client to explain that you are continuing to deal with their issue and will deliver a solution as soon as possible. This prevents the complaint from escalating and turning into a fresh problem.

Rule Seven: Follow Up
When you have dealt with the complaint, make a note to contact the customer a few weeks later to make sure he or she is happy with the solution and whether there is anything else you can do to be of service. Emphasise that you would welcome their custom in the future.