An unhappy customer can be incredibly damaging to your business and reputation. People are 2-3 times more likely to tell others about a bad customer experience than a good customer experience.

Combine this with easy access to social media on mobiles and suddenly an unhappy customer can be voicing their dissatisfaction to the world within seconds – before they've had time to think things through or you’ve had a chance to rectify the situation.

So what do you do when you have an unhappy customer on your hands? Here are five tips to help you diffuse the situation and keep your reputation intact.

1. Deal with the situation swiftly

If you are faced with an unhappy customer, deal with the situation quickly, calmly and with a genuine desire to achieve a win/win outcome. If possible don’t let them leave your store or get off the phone until it has been resolved.

2. Listen without interruption

What an unhappy customer wants most is to be able to vent their frustrations without interruption and to feel heard. Giving them this opportunity and encouraging the conversation with a statement like “let’s go over what happened” is often the first step in diffusing the situation.  

As hard as it can be, particularly if you have been taken off guard, you need to resist the urge to interrupt, get defensive or try to solve the issue immediately.  Your only role at this time is to listen for the key issues and facts that are hiding beneath their emotional reaction.

3. Repeat back the problem

Once they have finished, if you need to, ask any additional questions that will help you identify the problem or ensure you’ve identified the right one. Then let them know you have heard them by repeating the problem back to them.

4. Be understanding and accountable

Once you’ve clarified the problem put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel in the same situation? Show them understanding and empathy.

If you have made a mistake, take responsibility for your actions and apologise. When you are honest, humble and accountable for your mistakes you will often turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity to wow your unhappy customer.

If you aren't in the wrong, and have found through your questioning that the complaint is unfounded or that your customer has misinterpreted or done something wrong, still show your professionalism by being understanding and sensitive. Take the time to explain what has happened, outline any terms or conditions and if applicable why your processes or terms are this way.

5. Come to a solution

It is important to deal with each situation individually, taking into consideration the potential damage the customer in question may do to your business if it is left unresolved.

Come up with a solution to satisfy them personally, remembering it is always far better to have a short-term loss, then a long-term loss. Once the solution has been agreed on, take action immediately. Let them see that you are ready and willing to fix the problem on the spot.

When there isn’t a happily ever after…

Occasionally there are customers who can’t be pacified or contained, particularly in instances when the customer feels wronged but the business is not in the wrong. In these instances the most important thing to do is to keep all communication in writing, handle the situation with professionalism and seek legal council in the case of defamation or harassment.

Instead of being reactive, be proactive by looking after your existing customers so well that they can’t help but rave about you. Showcase your testimonials on your website and social media channels and let the positive word of mouth from your happy customers squash any possible negativity surrounding your business.

How do you handle unhappy customers?

Amanda

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