As any service provider can attest, there will come a time when you encounter an unhappy client. No matter how exceptional your employee or business performs, it's almost an inevitable guarantee that someone at some point will be unsatisfied. But what if they're more than just unsatisfied and unhappy? What if they're furious? So furious they're confrontational? So confrontational they want to exact some kind of revenge or punishment on your business?

Believe it or not, this sort of thing happens all the time, and the prevalence of social platforms as living reputation and review sites has made it easy for that one furious client to cause a lot of damage. That's why it's so important to have a game plan in place for handling your most unsatisfied customers, and a strategy for moving forward. This "Identify, Guide, Act, & Review" method will help you navigate such sticky situations with as much ease as possible.

First and foremost, identify what your client is furious about. You have to start by nailing down the problem in order to fix the situation, so try and get some dialogue going with the client about the specifics of what went wrong.

If you're dealing with the client in person or over the phone:

  • Don't try and silence or talk over them.
  • Take a deep breath, remain calm, and focus on the situation at hand.
  • Apologize (even if an apology isn't in order) and let them know you're there to help in any way you can.
  • Interact with the client in an open and controlled manner and actively listen (ask specific questions that contribute to an understanding of their anger).

If you're dealing with the client online:

  • If the interaction is on a public platform where others can view it, like Facebook, encourage the client to move over to a private conversation where you can help them directly.
    • Example response: We're so sorry to hear of your negative experience. If you're open to it, please direct message us your contact information so we can correct the situation.
  • Assure the client of your commitment to their satisfaction.
  • Ask for the details of their dissatisfaction and make a promise to help resolve the issue.

After contact is initiated with the customer and you hear them out with patience and understanding, it's time to guide the customer to greener pastures by offering corrective solutions. As you're listening to the client express why they're upset, ask yourself:

  • Where did our customer service or product go wrong?
  • How can we correct the error?
  • What can we add to this transaction as an apology to the client?

Based on the answers to these questions, come up with a timely and realistic solution you can offer the client, and propose it to them.

Assuming the client is on board, act with precision and a can-do attitude to make the solution a reality. Provide the best corrective resolution to the situation that you possibly can, and do so with the end goal of salvaging the relationship between the customer and your business.

Once you've identified the problem, guided the customer to a resolution, and taken action to make that resolution a reality, revisit the review process. What many businesses don't recognize is that you can use a bad review or customer experience as a catapult for further success.

A customer who has had a bad experience can follow up with a review on how their unique situation was handled, how they were treated through their mishap, and the measures the business took to correct the situation. A review that highlights a business's commitment to customer satisfaction has the potential to be even more compelling than a general, positive review. To that end, try asking the client if they would review your business's handling of the situation to help future performance and maintain a customer service record. If you've handled it to the best of your ability and the client feels satisfied with the course of actions taken, they'll likely be happy to oblige.