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3 Huge Mistakes When Handling Upset Customers

By July 1, 2020 July 6th, 2020 No Comments

Sometimes customers have valid reasons to be upset. They expected one thing and got another. And it’s these rare and precious moments that give us the opportunity to strengthen an existing relationship or earn the right to ask for more business.

It all depends on how you handle upset customers.

Here are a few reasons it is important for you and your business.

  • Dissatisfied customers will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • For every customer complaint, 26 other unhappy customers will remain silent. – Lee Resources
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.  – Understanding Customers, Chris Rice

To protect your brand and your relationships, here are three huge mistakes to avoid when handling an upset customer.

1. Failing to Diagnose Before You Prescribe

Often in the middle of a heated discussion, it’s easy to jump to proposed solutions before you fully understand what the customer’s problem is. The same way a doctor does not jump to conclusions before fully understanding a patient’s illness, we too need to ask more questions.

Once you understand the basis of the complaint, you may then want to ask the customer what they see as a suitable resolution before you commit to another outcome that might be even more than the customer was expecting.

Think like a negotiator and get them to bid first!

2. Fixing the Problem but Not the Customer

Have you ever got what you wanted from complaining but vowed never to do business with that company again? This is why your goal should be to fix the problem AND the customer.

Often the first step is to show empathy. This is a drastically underrated communication skill – especially when dealing with upset customers. In most cases, if you can help an upset person understand that you genuinely want to help them resolve their issue, you can more quickly shift the conversation from combative to collaborative.

Don’t be afraid to tell them how much you appreciate their business.

Tell them how important it is for you to try to make them happy.

Let them know you will do everything you can to make things right.

Sometimes it’s not just about fixing the immediate problem, it’s how you make them feel about buying from you again.

3. All Talk and No Action

When a customer is heated about something, they expect action. It’s those moments after the conversational dust has settled that can make or break their next purchase decision with you. Take action and follow through quickly. Keep your customer posted if there is a delay in resolving an issue. Providing simple updates will remind your customer that they are top of mind with you and that their matter is being taken care of. It’s the lack of action and dead time between complaint and resolution that does the damage.

Maybe get creative about finding out how well you did by following through with a thank you card, a survey or questionnaire about your service. However you do it, make sure you do what you say you will.


Upset customers are a part of any business. They can help make you and your business stronger by teaching you about your weaknesses. View dealing with upset customers as an opportunity to strengthen your communication skills and your business relationships.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can turn upset customers into loyal, raving fans in no time.


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