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10 Tips to Manage Dissatisfied Customers

Written by

 Jeremy Gallemard

By comparing the results of verbal aggression with how to satisfy customer needs, the study “French people and service” by Académie du Service published in December 2016 demonstrates that the sectors in which customers are the least satisfied are the ones that face the most verbal aggression.

It’s unavoidable: even a successful brand will face its fair share of complaints and unhappy users!

But how do you manage an unhappy customer?

The ten tips gathered here, which take into account both psychology and commercial practices, will help your agents to better understand conflictual situations and to limit the level of stress.

Table Of Contents

1. Train all your customer service agents
2. Listening and understanding the situation
3. Knowing how to reformulate your question
4. Stay calm in all circumstances 
5. Demonstrate a positive attitude 
6. Demonstrate empathy
7. Apologize to the customer or not?
8. Propose a solution
9. Offer compensation
10. Benefit from improving your service; anticipate future conflicts

1. Train all your customer service agents

Managing an unhappy customer is a skill that is far from obvious. It requires a healthy dose of diplomacy and self-mastery.

As director of customer relations, make sure that all of your call center operators – or at least those who demonstrate a weakness in this area – participate in the training of successful customer relations. There are various efficient training and seminars specialized in handling customer dissatisfaction.

2. Listening and understanding the situation

If you’re wondering how to react to a dissatisfied customer and how to establish the start of a dialogue, know that the most important quality for an agent is to be a good listener!

By defining customer satisfaction and giving your full attention to understand the nature of the customer’s issue, you will have already done a big part of the work of resolving the conflict. Avoid cutting them off even if you think you’ve already understood their request.

3. Knowing how to reformulate your question to avoid conflict

When facing a dissatisfied customer, what’s the best way to show them immediately that you’ve listened adequately and understood their request? - simply by rephrasing what they’ve told you!

Your rephrasing (“You encountered an issue with x or y, did I understand that correctly?”) will be felt like a sign of consideration by the customer and it transmits the signal that communication has been established. From that point on, the relationship has more of a chance of being constructive.

If you need to know more about communicating with customers, check out our article A quick guide for improving customer communications. 

4. Stay calm in all circumstances to avoid conflict with your customers

How to manage a difficult customer without losing your nerve? To each their own method.

It’s generally recommended to perfect your professional image, remaining neutral and imperturbable. 

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If you’re dealing with managing an aggressive or insulting customer, nothing’s stopping you from alerting them, courteously, that they’ve crossed a line, especially if the exchange is happening face to face and in public.

In any case, don’t lose your cool and feed their rage through sarcasm, condescension or passive aggressiveness.

5. Demonstrate a positive attitude 

A customer service agent should remain positive and continue to give a good impression of the brand in all circumstances, without minimizing or denying the customer’s complaint.

In general, you should convey the idea that the matter will be taken very seriously by your team, and be careful to avoid negative remarks.

Also, keep an eye out for agents that may have a hard time taking on the role of brand representative and who might openly blame the company for any customer issues.

Customer Experience Trends Report 2022

6. Customer conflicts: Demonstrate empathy

The dissatisfied customer on the other line could be you! Whatever the nature of the issue, it’s essential to be able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Remember that the customer doesn’t know all of the company’s services and products, and may make honest mistakes in judgment. An agent who knows how to demonstrate empathy will be more patient and courteous with customers.

7. Apologize to the customer or not?

Why - and how - should you deal with your dissatisfied customers? 

Sometimes, more than a solution, a customer is expecting acknowledgment from you regarding their bad experience, in other words, a proper apology!

There are numerous ways to formulate an apology and justification without damaging the brand image.

Don’t hesitate to suggest precise vocabulary to your agents and to propose, for example, “I regret that…” rather than “I’m sorry.”

Pragmatic customer service may choose to communicate an apology even when the company didn’t actually do anything wrong.

8. Propose a solution to the customer to avoid conflict

It’s important that a dissatisfied customer gets an initial response, even if it’s incomplete or provisional, from their first call. If not, their frustration will continue to grow and the risk that they’ll leave to a competitor is tenfold.

Let’s recall that an unhappy customer who gets a response will remain loyal 9 times out of 10.

Don’t waste this potential and monitor your first contact resolution rate.

9. Otherwise, offer compensation to your customers

Have you put in place all these practices and your customer is still dissatisfied? What should you do?

Sometimes, the damage has been done and the problem cannot be solved.

Apologies don’t suffice in this kind of situation and it’s important to offer compensation in a different form, even if it’s symbolic.

A commercial gesture, a partial or full reimbursement, a free gift…Small details can often allow you to restore your reputation with a disappointed customer.

10. Benefit from the exchange to improve your service and anticipate future conflicts

Although unpleasant, the management of a dissatisfied customer’s complaint is one of your biggest opportunities to benefit from sincere customer feedback.

Don’t waste it and systematically share the relevant comments with the concerned parties.

  • Your ideal goal?

That's why a customer’s dissatisfaction won’t affect anyone else!

Finally, how to behave with a nervous or somewhat annoyed customer? Whatever the issue, the recipe is the same: listening, empathy, reactivity and good business sense will be the best skills for diffusing most conflicts and developing a winning customer experience strategy. 

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Jeremy Gallemard

Hello! I'm Jérémy, President & Co-founder of Smart Tribune. With my background in the digital & customer experience space I'm happy to share my insight & practical advice on customer experience today & what it might look like tomorrow. Happy reading!

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