Eventually, every business will have to face an angry customer. Clients become upset with businesses for a variety of reasons, from justified misunderstandings to expectations that don’t match up with reality.
Dealing with an angry or disappointed customer can be a challenging experience, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to satisfied ones. Luckily, you’re not the first business to face this problem, and the interaction might not be as bad as it first seems.
With the right approach, you can neutralize most heated interactions with angry customers and, in some cases, even turn them around into mutually beneficial relationships.
Is your business prepared for its first negative customer interaction? We’ve listed five failproof tips below to help you make the most of your first interaction with an angry customer, maintain your retention rate high and improve your product or service.
First, let them share their frustrations and criticism
Whenever a customer approaches you — whether on the phone, via email or using live chat — to share a complaint or frustrating experience, let them share their feelings.
Customers become frustrated and angry for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is a sense that they’re helpless, whether because of technology that doesn’t work as it should or an item that isn’t what they expected.
Whatever the cause of their anger or disappointment, start the interaction by assuming that the customer is justified in being upset. Let them share their frustrations and criticism without even attempting to disprove, no matter how illogical or unjustified their anger might seem.
A customer might feel disappointed that your product or service — in their eyes — doesn’t quite live up to its expectations. They might feel as if they wasted their money. They might feel mislead or upset at a specific aspect of your product that isn’t what they expected it to be.
In short, let the customer share their emotions, without getting emotional. Keep your judgment, even if justified, to yourself, and give the customer a platform to speak. Once they’ve made their case, you’ll be in a much stronger position to win the interaction with a solution.
Don’t fight back — instead, work towards a solution
After you’ve given the customer a chance to share their feedback, you can respond. No matter how unjustified their frustration or anger might be, it’s imperative to understand that your goal is to work towards a solution, not to “win” an argument.
Joe Jaconi of Tech Armor has made this a best practice at his company. The company, which sells screen protectors for iPhones and other devices, occasionally receives complaints from customers who’ve fitted the protectors upside down:
“Whatever the reason, it’s important to just let them get it out of their system. We’ve all learned that like any good political debate, the facts really don’t matter. It’s how they’re presented and what the response is. So what you need to do before doing anything else is just listen.”
In Tech Armor’s case, there’s a simple solution: offer a replacement product. For other business types, particularly SaaS and digital goods, a variety of options are available:
- Refund the customer’s purchase (ideal for eBooks, online programs and license-based software)
- Offer an ongoing discount or free month (suitable for SaaS products)
- Reach out to address the specific issue the customer faces (applicable when a single issue or unrealistic expectation frustrates the customer)
Irrespective of the problem, having a solution-focused mindset is essential. Argue with your customers — even if it’s completely justified — and you’ll quickly watch the situation escalate, often into something that could cause lasting damage to your business.
Make an offer to avoid losing them, but set limits
The old saying that a great compromise “leaves both sides equally dissatisfied” has become a cliché for a reason: it’s true. The best compromises give both sides part of what they want, but never take too much from one side or give too much to the other.
Since responding to an unhappy customer often means taking an apologetic tone and listening to their feedback, some customers might push to receive a discount (or even a free product) as a result of the perceived problem or offense.
Discount can be a good solution, when done right, but it’s far from uncommon for what’s meant to be a one-off discount to warp itself into something your customers expect as standard.
Hedge against this risk by setting limits on what you can and will offer to disappointed or angry customers, and sticking to them. Set a hard limit for discounts — one that’s kind to the customer but manageable for your business — and never let anyone push past it.
In addition to setting limits, only offer discounts or freebies to unhappy customers if the situation justifies it. An unreasonable complaint should be met with fairness and attention, but it shouldn’t be rewarded.
Discounts and giveaways can save most customer relationships, but they can’t save all of them, and they have their own downsides. Make offers strategically with the aim of placating an angry customer and resolving the situation, not establishing a practice for every customer complaint.
After you propose a solution, ask for feedback
One of the most important parts of Net Promoter Score® is closing the customer feedback loop — a process of acting on a customer’s feedback, resolving the situation, and ensuring that they’re satisfied with your response before moving on.
As we shared in our post on closing the customer feedback loop, it’s just as important to close the loop with your detractors as it is to engage your promoters.
After every interaction with a detractor, reach out to check that they’re satisfied with the outcome of the interaction. Leave detractors with a non-response or poor solution and you create a risk of their disappointment manifesting itself in negative word of mouth in the near future.
View each angry customer interaction as a learning experience
No business has a perfect track record. Even the world’s most respected brands have their own set of detractors. Your business will need to deal with an angry or dissatisfied customer at some point, and it’s imperative that you view the interaction as a learning experience.
After you’ve responded to negative feedback from your first detractor, note the process that you followed throughout the interaction. Take note of the customer’s complaint, the direction of your conversation, and the solution you proposed.
Over time, as feedback from detractors comes in, you’ll notice patterns emerging that you can use to systematize your approach to dealing with negative feedback. You’ll see the same few features singled out for complaints, and the same gulfs between expectations and reality.
This is one of the most powerful aspects of NPS® — that it gives you both a quantitative score and qualitative feedback on your product’s weaknesses. Use the feedback you receive from your detractors to progressively improve your product and you’ll notice it slow down over time.
Measure customer satisfaction using Retently
It’s impossible to completely eliminate negative feedback. It’s also impossible to make sure all of your customers are completely happy with your product. But by measuring their satisfaction and acting on their feedback, you can enhance your product and improve your retention rate.
Retently lets you measure customer satisfaction and solicit honest, unbiased feedback using an automated Net Promoter Score survey. Learn more about how Retently works and start sending highly effective NPS surveys to your customer base today.