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Six Keys to Helping Unhappy Customers

by | Community Culture

As long as you’re selling products and people are buying them, there will always be unhappy customers. Nobody wants their customers to be dissatisfied with their products or services. As salespeople, it’s in our best interest to make sure that the people who buy goods and services from us leave happy with their experiences. Customers may contact you and say, “I still haven’t received my purchase yet,” or “the last time I bought from you, I wasn’t too thrilled with how you spoke to me.” And when they do — what do you do?

If you’re not sure how you’d handle the situation, read on to find out how you can do your best to help those disgruntled customers.

1. When in Doubt, Hear Them Out

A person is on a phone call, using a black smart phone, wearing black sunglasses, and facing the sun.

If a customer calls to tell you about why they’re unhappy with their purchase, the best rule of thumb is to listen. That’s right! Hear every word they say and try understanding what’s bothering them. Some people will be direct with what has upset them, and others you might have to really pinpoint where their frustration lies. In either case, actively listening to their complaints and issues is the best way to get to the bottom of it. When you’ve determined where you went wrong (because the customer is always right), you can work out a solution with them.

Don’t forget to apologize and empathize. Even if you don’t feel that it was your fault, you must remember that the customer feels the same way. They trusted you to provide a certain level of service, and it’s up to you to uphold those expectations.

2. Jump to Their Rescue

If you receive an unhappy call, e-mail, text, or even a message in Morse code, respond as promptly as possible. The faster you respond, the quicker you can get ahead of the problem and make sure that it doesn’t happen to someone else. Being swift with your customer service will keep the buyer from growing impatient and letting their frustration fester. On top of that, if customers are waiting for too long, they might begin to think that you don’t know what you’re doing and could start to lose trust in you. Show them that you’re trustworthy by responding, even if you don’t have a solution to their issue yet. Just let them know that you’re working on it and that you’ll contact them soon to learn more about their dissatisfaction so you can set things right. 

3. Show Accountability and Stability

Did you make a mistake? Own up to it! Say, “This is all my fault,” or “I really dropped the ball here, I am so sorry.” Immediately placing the blame on yourself lets them know that you want to make up for your mistake. If you don’t have a solution, don’t tell them. Instead say, “I’ll find out what I can do for you to make sure this doesn’t happen again and that you leave here happy today.” Customers want to know that you’re going to fix their problem and that everything will be alright.

4. Stay Calm and Use Their Name

A rock with the phrase “Keep calm” painted on it, rests in a pile of leaves.

When interacting with the customer, it’s crucial to stay calm, even if they’re screaming on the other end of the line. One of the best ways to maintain a civil interaction is to use the customer’s name. It’ll remind you both that you’re just two people talking, and it personalizes the correspondence. For some reason, when we’re upset, hearing someone say our name in a relaxed tone helps us to come back to Earth for a moment. It’s a very useful tool but use it sparingly because saying someone’s name too much can get … weird. 

5. Resolve the Issue

A monochromatic puzzle with the final piece about to be placed into the correct space, where a white light is pouring out from.

Often, when we get tired of dealing with an angry customer, we jump straight to the “Okay, here’s your refund,” response. But that solution should be your last resort.  Spend the time and energy calming the customer down and finding a resolution that will make them happy. If you go straight to the refund or replacement response, you may lose the opportunity for a return customer. However, if you solve the problem and improve your system to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again, doing so may demonstrate that you’re truly interested in perfecting your goods and services for the satisfaction of customers. This reassurance will almost always gain a return customer. And if the customer does return, you’ve strengthened your bond with them and will know them on a first-name basis.

6. The Last Resort

Someone returning two pizza boxes to the server.

Finally, it’s not uncommon to have a few customers that are always unhappy with your product or service. Even when business seems to be doing great and everyone is happy, there will be an outlier or two who you can never seem to please. If these customers contact you, take the above steps to help them. Do you think they’re beyond helping? If so, fall back to the last resort — refunds, returns, or replacements. If none of these options are financially feasible for your business, you may have to offer your sincerest apologies and tell them that there’s nothing else you can do. How this final interaction goes will depend entirely on your policies and standards for business practice.

No matter what your policies or standards are for refunds, returns, or replacements, do whatever you can to ensure that the customer leaves satisfied. This way, the experience that they leave with is, “Well at least that person tried their best to help me!” 

Giving quality customer service to a disgruntled buyer can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. But, with a little mindset shift, we’re confident that you can begin to view obstacles as opportunities. 

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