How to appease an upset customer isn’t one size fits all. The last 12 months have been stressful. It’s easy for people to lose control of their stress. It should come as no surprise that tension can erupt into anger. It happens.

You work in a brick-and-mortar, restaurant, or a service center. Regardless, an upset customer is in your area. They’re mad, and it looks like you’re going to get the brunt of it. What should you do?

What to do and NOT to do with an Upset Customer

Don’t react in anger

Under no circumstance should you react in anger and verbally attack the customer. There’s an old saying, “You can win the argument and lose a friend.” That’s never truer than dealing with an upset customer. Attempting to argue, defending your position, or downplaying the customers’ concern seldom leads to resolution, quite the opposite. Don’t fuel their fire by feeding their flame. Your best strategy may be letting the fire go out by letting them get it out of their system. Have you tried to argue with or defend your point to an upset customer? How’d that work for you?

Don’t become defensive

It’s a natural reaction to defend yourself and your company, but most of the time, defending the business to the agitated purchaser only adds fuel to their fire. It’s difficult not to defend your business when the customer is absolutely wrong. But even if they are wrong becoming defensive won’t help.

There’s another old saying, “The customer’s always right,” which is absolutely not true. The customer is often wrong. This might be better said, “The customer should be treated with respect—in their mind, they’re right.”

You can’t ignore it

An upset customer isn’t something you can hide from or push off. Handing them the service department manager’s business card and dismissing them will most likely not send them away. It will make it worse.

Don’t downplay it

You can’t act like it’s not a big deal because it is a big deal to your patron.

Don’t make excuses

The customer doesn’t care that a new employee messed up their order.

Stay away from humor

Regardless, if you’re a freaking comedian, the customer will not think you’re hilarious.

Don’t push it off

Telling the exasperated end-user that it’s not your department won’t change a thing. To the customer, you represent the company regardless of what department you work in.

4 Steps to Appeasing an Upset Customer

  1. Apologize – Even if their demands seem unreasonable—apologize. In the least, recognize and apologize for their being upset, “I’m sorry we haven’t met your expectations.” or “I’m sorry; the last thing we wanted was for you to be upset.”
  2. Listen – Listen with an open mind, without prejudice, let your customer speak their mind. Don’t interrupt unless it becomes belligerent, then call for help.
  3. Help – Ask what you can do to make it better and if it’s reasonable, do it. “What can we do to make you happy?” or “What can I do to correct this?”
  4. Turn over – If you can’t make the customer happy, turn them over to someone who can. “I want to do what’s best for you. Let me ask my manager for assistance.” or “I’m not sure I’m qualified – may I ask my team for advice, please?”

2 Keys to Making the 4 Steps Work

  1. Be aware of your body language

If you present aggressive, dismissive, or defensive body language, it may not matter what you say. Crossed arms are a defensive posture. Making fists and leaning forward can be seen as aggression, while turning away, even partially, can be interrupted as being dismissive. All will hinder your communication with an upset client.

  1. Control your voice. 

More is communicated through how you say words than the words you say. Maintaining an even steady tone of voice with little emphasis or inflection is the safest route.

You won’t make every customer happy, but by following these 4 steps, you can help many feel better about their transactions with you.

I Hope You Never Face an Upset Client 

I hope you never are confronted by a long-faced customer, but if you listen to them, apologize, and do your best to fix their concern, you’ll come out ahead.

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. I’m also available to conduct training.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash