5 effective strategies for dealing with an unhappy customer

Have you ever heard the term “the customer is always right.”

If you work in retail or any job that deals with customers, you know that this term is far from the truth. The customer is not always right, but they are still a customer. Having happy customers is essential for your company and the source of your livelihood, so keeping your customers happy is vital.

Dealing with an angry, disgruntled customer is a pretty unpleasant experience. It runs the chance of backfiring with people being able to rate businesses online through various websites and social media. It is easy for one angry customer to leave a bad review of your company for the whole world to see.

Customer service skills need to be honed and used accordingly. Using the tips below, you will be able to reassure your customer, solve their problem and retain their business.

Take a look below for five strategies to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer.


  1. Listen to the customer

Listen carefully to what the customer is saying. Don’t listen to respond, don’t get defensive and don’t have a  generic response waiting. Listen carefully and even rephrase and repeat back to the customer what they just said to show that you are listening and understanding what they are saying. This lets the customer feel heard and validated. Actively listening will go a long way when it comes to settling a dispute and defusing the situation.

  1. Stay calm

This can be a tough one but is definitely a skill to master if you are working with customers. Staying calm in a situation that is getting heated will help to diffuse the flaring tempers. Take a deep breath and maintain a professional tone. How you respond to an unhappy customer is important because it sets the tone for how your customers and employees view you. In the heat of the moment, the wrong tone or wrong phrase can escalate the situation quickly and have a lasting effect on your reputation as well as the company’s reputation.

  1. Show empathy for the customer

Showing empathy for an unhappy customer can go a long way in calming the customer down and finding a solution. Call the customer by their name and if they have an account with your company, make sure you pull it up and take a look at their history. Making them feel valued, respected, and heard will go a long way in resolving the issue and saving your company’s reputation.

  1. Have support resources

Having a system set up to help deal with unhappy customers is a great way to get ahead of the problem and have a plan in place for when this situation arises. Your support resources could be a training course that all employees must complete or a binder on what to do in this situation. Have something in place, so you or your employees are not fumbling around trying to deal with a disgruntled customer and have no idea what to do. Some helpful areas to cover in your support resources would be:

  • How to de-escalate a conflict
  • How to actively listen and think critically
  • How to walk a customer through a conflict resolution

Make sure when you are deploying these tactics to make them personalized to the customer and their situation. You don’t want to further escalate the situation by being generic and reading from a script. That is very disrespectful and will convey the message to the customer that they are not important enough to be treated individually.

  1. Ask for help if needed

Dealing with an unhappy customer can be taxing, and even if you deploy your very best skills at resolving the problem, the situation may still escalate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a co-worker or a manager if you are getting nowhere with the customer and the problem is just getting worse. There’s no point in worsening the situation; bringing in a fresh face and set of ears might help solve the issue.

Having to deal with an unhappy customer is an uncomfortable experience for you as an employee.  Having to deal with someone who is angry is not your fault. However, it would be best to learn how to remedy the situation and defuse the unhappy customer—keeping calm, listening to the customer, showing some empathy, having a support system in place and asking for help when needed. These are all great skills to develop, especially if you work somewhere you may have to deal with unhappy customers. Also, keep in mind not to take it personally when someone is upset and possibly yelling at you; it is hard not to get upset. The customer is not upset with you, and having you angry and losing your cool will not help the situation. Try to stay calm and remember it is not personal.

A bad customer experience can quickly spread like wildfire and affect the companies reputation.

Keeping your customers happy and turning them into return customers should be a top priority.