How to deal with dissatisfied customers the right way
Putting others' needs above your own is what great customer service is made of. But how do you handle the tough ones?
02 December
6 min read
solved Rubik's cube with the yellow squares showing on a yellow background

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others,” says his Holiness, the Dalai Lama. And placing someone else’s needs before your own — even when they’re impolite — is what good customer service is made of.

Consider this: 9 out of 10 people won’t purchase with a brand after a bad experience, without ever notifying customer care.

This means any customer who complains is a gift. Here’s your chance to shine as a customer service agent. Appease their grievance and 70% will be happy to purchase again.

Of course, handling grumpy customers takes empathy and kindness. To soothe frazzled nerves and deliver reassurance, you’ve got to stay calm, collected, and friendly.

Did you know that 3 out of 4 people say talking with a friendly customer service agent also makes them happy? The power of positivity doesn’t just change moods. In some instances, it can even rewire our brain.

What not to say

The study of linguistics shows how much words matter. What you say and how you say it influences your interactions.

Stating what can’t be done, using negative language, or blaming doesn’t work in customer service. Using positive language, presenting alternative solutions, and being helpful does.

Avoid phrases like:

  • Unfortunately, no.”
  • I can’t help you with that.
  • Regretfully, that’s a glitch.
  • I don’t know what happened.”

Instead, say:

  • I’d love to help you out, here’s what I can do for you.
  • Let’s try this right away to see if it helps.
  • This looks like an abnormal event at our end, I’ll definitely be investigating further.
  • Let me share all the details we’ve gathered so far.”

The Wheel of Emotions (and how to respond)

Treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s a simple philosophy that helps you transform unhappy customers into happier ones.

Who knows, your friendly conversation could just be the rainbow that brightens up their grey day. Simple things like addressing someone by their name and acknowledging their feelings can help defuse a tense moment.

Feeling valued, appreciated, and respected matters to people, so always try to compensate for any bother. Be quick to address their concerns, and be clear about how you will resolve them.

If a solution isn’t available, offer a workaround or a time frame for resolution. In exchange, you’ll win their gift of loyalty.

Let’s dive into the kinds of dissatisfied customers you may encounter and how to handle them.

The Uncooperative Customer

This person may have been waiting on a reply for some time or have other stuff to do. They may demand to speak to your manager and be impatient with any questions or suggestions.

👉 Take ownership of the issue. Be transparent about why you need more information or why there was a delay in responding.

You can always say: ‘I’m sorry you’ve been waiting. Sometimes heavy call volumes can cause a delay in our response but we will always get back to you! Could you help me review your account so far? It would be great to make some notes so you don’t have to repeat any information.’ 

The Angry Customer

It’s no picnic handling an angry customer. Remember not to take their outburst personally. It’s not directed at you, even though it can feel like it.

👉 Keep calm and carry on. Listen to the complaint, appreciate their patience, and reassure them you’ll do your best to set it right. People are less defensive when their feelings are validated.

Try replying with: “I’m sorry you’ve had some issues we haven’t fully resolved, I understand your frustration. Don’t worry, I’m going to get this sorted for you. We really appreciate your patience on this.

The Adamant Customer

Adamants appear closed off to solutions. They may demand a refund or say they want to cancel their business. What they really want is for your company to go the extra mile for them.

Try saying: “Thanks for notifying us of these issues. I have a few ways we can make this better for you. Let’s go through some options together and you can tell me what you think.

By having some solutions at hand and letting them choose, you’re sending a strong message on your commitment to setting wrongs right.

The Unhappy Customer

According to Harvard Business Review, what people appreciate is feeling heard and understood when they contact customer care.

👉 Clarify their exact issue in your reply. Offer a replacement or something complementary as an apology. Ask for feedback on what you can do for them as 9 out of 10 customers tend to have it.

Try: “I understand the special bouquet you ordered is missing Calla lilies. We’re so sorry your floral delivery was ruined. I can send a fresh bouquet right away or replace it with a different one. Please let me know how we can make this better for you. May we offer a complementary living room arrangement to make up for this?

Your customer will know you’re doing all you can to make them happy again.

Show you care

In customer service, emotion trumps rational deliberation.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”. Customers will always appreciate your empathy in handling their issues.

As a support agent, it’s in your hands to ensure a good customer experience. Remember, you are the link between your company and its clients. Do the best you can to keep that relationship healthy and happy.

If you solve an unhappy customer’s problem, most of them will choose to shop with you again. And that’s a great outcome to keep in mind when dealing with a frustrated customer.

Just like He-man in the Masters of the Universe, YOU have the power. 💪🏼