Dealing with Unhappy Customers

Gordon Selfridge, creator of the famous department store in London is said to have come up with the saying that ‘The customer is always right’. There are many in business who would argue that this is not true and there are others who say that it really means you should go out of your way to help every customer. There are two doubles or pairs we need to consider when talking about angry customers.

  • The customer is right or wrong.
  • They will or won't be satisfied.

Just because a customer is unhappy doesn't mean that he or she is right. How you deal with them of course is the basis of this article but you need to understand that the problem the customer believes they have may be your fault or it may be their fault or, and just to add a little variety to the situation, it's possible that maybe it’s nobody's fault.

And while the adage that the customer is always right is possibly always true, it's important to understand that there are different types of unhappy customers. The second double is the response or reaction displayed by the customer. You get to deal with the situation and hopefully do it well but regardless of your behaviour the customer will either be satisfied with the resolution or still be unhappy. In some cases an unhappy customer can become even more unhappy and let it be known that they will never do business with you again. However you behave and whatever the outcome in dealing with an unhappy customer, you need to understand that unhappy customers are a fact of life. It may not be your fault.

In fact it may have nothing to do with you whatsoever but from time to time you will encounter a customer who is not pleased. There is a writing guru who runs classes for aspiring writers and one of his pearls of wisdom could well apply to you as an entrepreneur. The guru says, ‘I can control what I write but I can't control what people think about what I have written’.

That could easily apply to you in your business as an entrepreneur. You can create your product or service. You can market it and promote it in the best way possible. You can provide what you think is excellent service. But you can't control how people react to whatever it is you provide. All you can do is prepare yourself well to deal with unhappy customers.

There are steps you can take to help deal with an unhappy customer.  

  • Keep your cool.
  • Become an expert listener.
  • You (yourself, personally) are not the problem.
  • Learn how to make an apology.
  • Show you know how to sympathize.
  • Create a resolution.

There are a number of things you can do when dealing with an unhappy customer and really only one thing you can't do -- lose your temper. As you would know in an argument if one or both of the people becomes enraged, it is almost impossible to find a resolution. No matter how unhappy or angry or emotional the customer becomes, you must be a fine example of serenity. Above everything else, alwaysremain calm. One of the greatest skills in people handling situations is your ability to listen. There is nothing worse for an unhappy customer who believes that the person they are talking to is not listening to them. And of course by listening I mean genuinely concentrating on the issue.

If you haven't already acquired the skill of listening then do some reading on the subject and improve your skills. It's very easy when being confronted by an unhappy customer to allow their emotions and possibly their anger to spill over and land on you. Do not allow this to happen. Even if you were involved in dealing with this customer in the first place it is most important that you do not allow the unhappiness from the customer to take over your mind and body. Keep the matter on a business footing and seek a resolution. It should never become personal.

From time to time there will be a public figure who says or does something and then seemingly regrets the action. They make a public apology. Unfortunately for them in some cases their apology only makes the matter worse. There is a right and a wrongway to make an apology. You need to learn the right way. You have to be sincere andyou have to be specific. The centre of attention is the person who is upset and not you or anyone else. Learn how to make the right type of apology.

Body language is a major part of people management skills and if you give the right vibes in dealing with an unhappy customer, you go a long way to diffusing the situation and finding a solution. Not only must you be able to have sympathy for the situation in which the unhappy customer finds themselves but you must also display the sympathy. The number one priority in dealing with an unhappy customer is to create a solution. Every complaint is unique and every resolution is likewise. Hopefully your business will have a policy in dealing with unhappy customers. Now is the time to put that policy into practice.