Regardless of what industry you're in and how much effort you put in to doing everything right, the truth is you cannot possibly satisfy all of your customers all the time, and it's likely you'll end up dealing with an angry customer or two. However, whether it's a quality issue, a delay in a delivery or something else that may not even be under your control, knowing how to assuage an upset customer before the situation escalates is key for any organization.
These six entrepreneurs share some of their tried-and-true tactics for dealing with angry customers so as to regain their trust, their support and keep them on as clients.
Above all, be human.
"So many companies sound like robots," TripScout co-founder and CEO Konrad Waliszewski says, lamenting the depersonalization of customer services and underlining the importance of human touch in client interactions.
"Companies repeat the same lines, they don't really listen even though they say things like 'I hear your concern and I'm sorry,' and they don't remember context from the prior email exchange with the customer," Waliszewski explains. "People are very forgiving if you simply act like a real person, take ownership, explain what you can (or can't) do and speak like you're a human talking to a human."
Immediately address and resolve.
One of the best approaches when dealing with an angry customer is to immediately address their issue -- this typically helps them calm down, according to Serenity Gibbons, local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California: "They get angry because they believe the company is not listening or serving them in a way that they should."
The best way to address this issue is to drop everything, respond to the angry customer and truly listen to them before offering a resolution, Gibbons recommends. "When you do what you say, you will win that customer back."
Own the mistake and apologize.
In addition to responding quickly, companies should own what they did wrong and apologize, if they are the ones at fault. "Our team sent two 30-hour invoices for a 10-hour monthly contract to the client. After an outrageous email, I jumped in and apologized for the mistake due to miscommunication, sent the internal reports proving the work completed and deducted the total of 40 hours with a sincere apology," DevriX CEO Mario Peshev shares.
The result was overwhelmingly positive and helped Peshev salvage the relationship and retain the customer. "The client called me and applauded me for taking the blame and correcting the mistake ASAP, leading to new opportunities," he explains.
Ask what would make them happy.
"If a customer approaches your business with a complaint, ask them what it would take to make them happy," says Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights. This will help the customer feel heard and the issue acknowledged.
"In most cases, the request is feasible (for example, a shipping refund or a discount) and addressing that problem while simultaneously fixing the issue will impress the upset customer," Christoff further explains his approach. "I think striving to meet expectations, even after a setback, goes a long way toward building relationships with consumers"
Take it away from public sight.
Many times, it's easier to assuage an angry customer if you move the discussion from a public forum to a private setting, thinks SeedProd LLC founder John Turner.
If a frustrated customer starts angrily ranting on social media about your product, service or brand, you should reach out to them as soon as possible and take the conversation away from the public eye. "Most people are more reasonable when they are taken off a platform where everyone can follow along with the conversation," Turner adds.
Let them go if they're not worth it.
"This may not be a popular approach, but sometimes the energy it requires to satisfy an upset customer isn't worth it," says LFNT Distribution co-founder Colbey Pfund. According to Pfund, some people are going to be upset just for the sake of being upset and, sadly, nothing a business does will be able to appease them.
The only solution in this case is to just let the client go. "I am willing to do just about anything to satisfy our customers, but there is a line. If I feel as though we are being taken advantage of, I am out," Pfund concludes.