A dissatisfied customer can create serious consequences for a company.

Especially with the rise of social media, it is easy for things to get out of hand when it comes to dissatisfied customers.  However, a dissatisfied customer can also be an opportunity to build a stronger customer relationship, if the issue is resolved satisfactorily and rapidly.

Having a disgruntled customer can mean not only lost customers and lost lifetime customer value, but also negative word of mouth. One unsuccessful customer interaction can become public and can lead to other angry customers.

It’s not only what happens in dealing with a customer, but also it’s important how the company deals with the situation.

For all businesses, there are many variables they  cannot easily control.  Consider the example of an airline. It is difficult for airlines to control all of the factors that effect the customer’s experience on a flight. While they have some control over customer service, they cannot do much about the impact of changing oil prices, unpredictable weather and mechanical delays, and unruly passengers.

  • Many companies rely on the strength of interactions between company and customers, as well as relationships and experience in growing their businesses. Yet when a crisis happens, these variables are often the most threatened. The potential impact of a disgruntled customer can be far reaching, in both tangible and intangible ways, including: Loss of satisfaction & loyalty
  • Loss of sales
  • Loss of brand value
  • Reduced Return on Investment from marketing
  • Reduced ” Lifetime Customer Value”

Best-Practices in handling dissatisfied customers:

1. Motivating your Customer Service team

Inspiring and motivating your staff towards the priority of keeping, delighting, and growing customers across the company’s product or service lines can help.  Staff should understand that the cost of acquiring new customers is much more expensive than keeping happy customers.

Managers can train service professionals to engage with a crisis in a way that builds rapport with customers.

2. Promoting Empathy

An understanding of and sensitivity to the emotional background behind the complaint can be a tremendous benefit.  Some mistakes happen when service professionals are thinking only in terms of protocols and policies when the right response is a more empathetic one.  In some cases, irate clients or customers are reacting based on emotional reactions and are better appeased by an apology or an assurance you are on their side

3. Ensuring Effective Communication

Often the most devastating contributing factor to a lost customer can be poor employee communication.  Blaming the customer not only increases the chance of losing them, but can also anger them further and damage the brand publicly. Managers should be sure to have appropriate staff at the customer touch point who can not only calmly address the issue, but also communicate positive values that may help to bring the customer back.

4. Emphasizing Flexibility

Promoting a willingness to be flexible when appropriate can be helpful.  Having appropriate planning and training on what can be given or negotiated may solve an escalating customer conflict.  In some cases, a short term concession can be less than the loss of a long-term client. Empower your staff on the front lines of customer service to negotiated and make reasonable concessions to solve conflict in a way that will keep the customer happy. The long term benefit of keeping the customer happy will far outweigh the immediate cost of a refund, free return, or other restitution.

Communication qualities that can improve Customer Satisfaction

Cultivating the following qualities in your Customer Service personnel can help build trust during a crisis:

  • Empathy
  • Politeness
  • Respectfulness
  • Professionalism
  • Proactivity
  • Attentiveness
  • Responsiveness
  • Patience
  • Competence
  • Willingness to help

What Not to Do

  • Avoiding or underestimating the situation
  • Assuming the problem will fix itself
  • Firing back at customers
  • Taking heated comments personally
  • Blaming customers
  • Inflaming tensions

Managing relationships with upset customers is often an opportunity disguised as a crisis. Effectively addressing the issue can lead to positive brand awareness and increased customer satisfaction.

Considering how easy it is for angry customers to spread negative word of mouth through social media, it is imperative for companies to have a strategy in place for whenever and wherever these situations arise. Keeping customers happy and satisfied will keep them coming back, and ensure that both dollars and effort spent on building a brand will not be undone or wasted.


Contact us for your next Customer Satisfaction and Customer Experience research project.