The Art of Dealing with Unhappy Customers

“Be thankful for customers who complain. You still have the opportunity to make them happy.” – Smith Management Group

Cliché but a truism – ‘you cannot please everyone’ – and customers are probably the toughest group to please. Irrespective of the business someone is running – you will have customers and it is your job to serve them. There will always be all types of customers and even though dealing with unhappy customers is never welcome, it would be helpful to remember that these customers shake a company out of its reverie, believing that they are excelling at customer service. The challenge that dealing with unhappy customers brings helps a company to up the ante and ensure that the currently unhappy customer ends up being its most loyal and profitable one.

In an ideal world, a company should be able to know proactively what would displease a customer and put all the checks in place to ensure that the customer is always happy. However, this not a reality and every business – big and small – would have unhappy customers that would complain. A complaining customer is a lot better than a silent one, who just leaves without giving your company a chance to rectify the issues. A complaint is feedback and any customer feedback is an opportunity for a company to improve and ensure that the next offering and service is at par with the expectations of the customer. It is not easy to hear criticism – however, dealing with unhappy customers and allowing them to vent their ire will earn a company the reputation for being sensitive to customer needs – an attractive trait for any customer.

There could be many reasons that your company would be dealing with unhappy customers – that is customers could be displeased about anything. It could something as small as a dirty entrance to the store or as severe as extremely poor customer service. The fact is that customers are not alike and what may be inconsequential to one customer could be extremely important for another. It is because of this subjectivity that companies must first assess the severity and complexity of the complaint. While all complaints warrant a response from the company, it would be the onus of the company to decide the investment of time and effort in the resolution of any particular complaint. For some customers nothing is ever good enough and they will always find reason to complain – another factor that companies must keep in mind when dealing with unhappy customers. It is possible to keep monitor ‘regular complainers’ through track sheets and historical data that must be available on a centralized database. If the data reveals a customer’s tendency to complain about everything – a company could choose to either deal with them or find ways to let go of the customer.

Dealing with unhappy customers is an art since it requires a keen sense to understand the constructive complaints from the ‘noise’. It would be detrimental for a company to pay too much attention to frivolous complaints, as ignoring legitimate issues, which could blow up and cause serious damage. This balancing is the art of dealing with unhappy customers. As mentioned, all complaints deserve a fair and patient hearing and definitely an apology for the inconvenience cause to the customer. However, when dealing with unhappy customers it is imperative to place the complaints in order of severity. For example – a newly launched product that has some issues would most definitely be a reason for complaints but a company must ascertain the consequences of those issues for each customer and then move to resolving the most complex and severe ones. Irrespective of size, it would be near impossible for any company to resolve all complaints at once and with same swiftness and agility and hence should prioritize each issue before seeking to resolve.

It is critical that a company pay attention to dealing with unhappy customers. As mentioned earlier on, customer complaints and criticism are a superlative method for companies to gain ideas and educate themselves about the preferences and pain areas of customers. Customer complaints are an essential part of ‘growing and becoming better’ for any company – albeit if they use the complaints constructively. Responding to and dealing with unhappy customers must be done in the most personal manner such that the customer perceives the company’s dedication towards improvement. Not only does such open-mindedness lead to a constructive dialogue with the customer, it also helps a company to gain invaluable insights into the expectations of the customer for the future. With open communication, a company can build a healthy and robust relationship with the customer and make exponential improvements in the products and services it offers. As a company’s reputation enhances as being receptive and sensitive to customer needs, it will be able to attract and retain more customers, the complaining customer included!

The mistake that the representatives of many companies make is to believe that the customer complaint is a personal attack. This is a fallacy since a customer has a problem with the offerings of the company and a representative of the company, is the company and hence their ‘barrage’ is aimed at the entity and not the individual. Treating criticism as personal is a mistake and there must be adequate training provided to the customer service teams to understand this. Rather than fixating words, they must be do their best to deal with the problem in the most professional manner and aim to provide the most appropriate solution to the customer in the least possible time. In dealing with unhappy customers well, a company creates an opportunity to, not only win back the customer but also keep the customer for life. In the competitive and cutthroat business world, a company would be very lucky to have customers that are not only loyal but also willing brand ambassadors. It would behove your company to empower its representatives to make spot decisions, even financial, in order to get the customer back – a small price to pay for a lifelong and profitable customer who has the ability to attract many such customers for your company.

In dealing with unhappy customers, it is vital to remember that complaints too, find a way in customer records. In fact, they should be recorded as part of the customer’s journey with the company. By maintaining and monitoring these complaints, a company can learn how to deal with similar complaints in the future and possibly avoid them. Keeping a record will help a company to know if the same complaint continues to persist and would therefore address the root-cause, which could be a bigger and more complex problem. Several customers making the same complaint would prove that the company is the cause of the problem rather than product misuse or any other external issues.

As we said – customer complaints are feedback and most companies actively solicit their customer’s opinions. Hence, when dealing with unhappy customers it is important to thank them for taking the time out to provide feedback without being asked. Thank them for making an invaluable contribution to their success and to the overall customer service levels of the company. Such behaviour will make your customers feel valuable and special and they would be sure to compliment your company in addition to ‘complaining’. It is a lot more profitable for a company to have customers that complain, than those that never do but walk away and give their business to a competitor.

It is not hard to raise the customer service levels if each person in the company learns the art of dealing with unhappy customers. It takes time and effort but every bit of the endeavours will be worth it, when customers reward the company with more business and great testimonials and referrals.

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