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The Disgruntled Customer


There is a person that many businesses fear like the plague – the disgruntled customer. The disgruntled customer is that person who is not happy with your product/service and doesn’t mind letting you know how he/she feels either via phone call, face to face or social media. Did you know that this customer is your best friend? I can hear you saying “Come on now Errol, my best friend? How can that be when they’re not happy with my product/service?” Just like your best friend should be honest enough to tell you about your blind spots, the disgruntled customer – by way of their discontentment – brings your “business blind spots” to your attention. Remember., only 4% of customers that decide to stop doing business with you bother to tell you why they’re no longer your customer. The other 96% just silently go away.

How do you deal with your disgruntled customer? Here are a few tips:

Listen to the issue – Allow your customer to fully vent, all the while filtering the conversation for bits of information that point to the customer’s reason for disgruntlement. Let the customer know that you’re listening by periodically offering a verbal confirmation such as -” I understand your frustration” or “I can understand why this is an issue for you.” If your customer says “Are you still there?” (if you’re on the phone with the customer) then you know that your customer feels you aren’t listening. When face to face with your customer, this should never be in question!See for what can happen when your face to face customer feels you aren’t listening.

Apologize – Offer a sincere apology for the issue. “First of all, let me apologize for any discomfort, inconvenience (whatever is appropriate) that this has caused.

Restate the issue – Repeat back to the customer what he/she stated is the cause of his/her unhappiness. This step reinforces in the customer’s mind that you’re really listening.

Focus on the resolution – Stay focused on the resolution. Advise your customer of what you will do to correct the situation. Ask if the resolution is acceptable. Your customer will appreciate this as you are getting their buy-in to your efforts to resolve the issue. If the customer insists on continuing  to be focused on the issue, advise them again that you understand , restate your resolution and ask ” May I get started on correcting this for you?” or state “Let’s get started on taking care of this for you.”

When you need more info – If you don’t have a resolution readily available (this does happen sometimes), advise the customer that you will get the information required to develop the best resolution. Give the customer a timeframe (5 minutes, one day, etc.) in which you will provide the resolution, get their agreement and follow-up within the agreed upon timeframe. Your credibility is at stake as well as your ability to retain this customer.

Follow-up – Don’t forget to follow-up with your disgruntled customer. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Let them know that by allowing you to correct the issue, it prevents the issue from reoccurring.  Advise your customer of how valuable their input is to the success of your business and even offer a token (discount on next purchase, free items, etc) to express your gratitude.

Analyze the issue – Create a database of customer issues in order to identify negative business patterns. It’s important to analyze your operations from your customer’s viewpoint. The goal is to consistently provide great customer service. Your willingness to thoroughly examine why the issue happened and prevent it in the future is very important to maintaining a high rate of retention.

Remember, cherish the disgruntled customer. By voicing their dissatisfaction, they’re giving you an opportunity to retain their business(and the business of others who might be impacted by the same issue) versus just silently allowing your competition an opportunity to replace you.

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