Start by giving them the opportunity to fully explain why they’re upset. What happened, how did it impact them and what are they looking for as fair compensation (in their eyes)? By compensation I don’t necessarily mean money. They believe that they haven’t received the value from you that they should have, or you haven’t met their expectations. So they’ll be looking for something from you to fulfill it.

Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand their position as they see it, if necessary. It’s a good idea to paraphrase what they’ve told you. This will show them that you were listening, confirm understanding and give them the chance to correct anything you may have gotten wrong.

Acknowledge their position and feelings, even if you don’t agree. If reasonable, do what you can to make things right for them. If there’s nothing you can do, explain that and the reasons why. Apologize for their experience regardless.

Make sure to set limits on what behaviours you are prepared to tolerate from customers. If they’re upset, they’re going to act that way. However, threatening or intimidating behaviour, excessive profanity, sexist or racist comments are not okay. You can call them out on that by stopping the conversation and identifying the behaviour. “I understand that you’re upset, but I will not tolerate abusive behaviour towards me or my staff.” If it continues, I strongly suggest ending the discussion and walking away, direct them to leave, etc.

Set limits on behavior, remain calm and make your customer feel that you’ve truly listened to them and tried to make things right and you can turn an unhappy customer into a repeat customer more often that you might think!


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