I'm in my favorite city in the world, and decided to enjoy a nice meal at one of my favorite restaurants here last night. The meal and the service were so bad that it prompted me to write a TripAdvisor review for only the second time. I admit, I should write good reviews more often, but I don't. I write this because, if the restaurant had handled my issue better, I might be writing a different column today. 

The most important consideration, when confronted with an angry (I wasn't even angry) customer, is your mindset--you are in business to serve your customer, period. Whether the complaint is justified or not, how you respond can make the difference between keeping that person's patronage or losing it forever. The following are five tips for handling an upset customer:

1. Above All, Remain Calm

When a customer is going off the deep end, there is nothing to be gained by yelling back. In fact, all you will achieve is an escalation of hostilities.

2. Realize That It's Not Personal

The customer doesn't know you from Adam. They are displeased with the quality of the service you provide or the performance of your product, not with you.

3. Lend an Ear 

For better or worse, you are the person confronted with a venting customer, so patiently hear the person out and acknowledge the complaint. This can go a long way to defusing the situation. If you are engaging with the customer in person, be aware of your body language--keep eye contact, sit or stand up straight, and keep your arms uncrossed. 

4. Offer Some Sympathy

Express sympathy for the customer's unpleasant experience and apologize gracefully. If you want to keep this person as a future customer, you need to convey regret for the problem whether it's genuine or perceived.  A simple statement along the lines of: "I'm sorry you're unhappy with our product (or service). What can we do to make amends?" is often all that is needed.

5. Offer a Solution

Ask the customer what would make him or her happy or propose your own fair and practical solution. In most cases, this will provide the customer with some degree of satisfaction. If the customer feels fairly treated, you stand a good chance that he or she will deal with your company again, and that is your ultimate goal.

So the bottom line is, respond to your customers in the way you would want if in the same situation. Your customers have lots of other places they can spend their money, so be grateful they chose your business.

I hate that I can't go back to one of my favorite restaurants. I will have very fond memories of the mac and cheese.