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7 Top Customer Service Tips for Dealing with Unhappy Customers

It’s tough being a customer service representative. You’re the front line of the business dealing with both happy customers (yay), and some very unhappy customers (not very yay).

It’s quite rewarding to turn a terrible call into a great experience. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of our top customer services tips to help you achieve this seemingly impossible task and leave your customer bragging about you and your company for weeks to come.  

Let’s face it: Customers may be stubborn, rude, or unrealistic … but they are never wrong. So - what is the best way to deal with an unhappy customer? Here are some of our top customer service tips.

1.  Don’t pass the blame

An unhappy customer doesn’t necessarily care why they are in a frustrating situation, or whose fault it is. All they care about is the solution.

This doesn’t mean you need to take the blame yourself, just don’t pass it on. For example: “I’m sorry sir, but it’s really the Finance Departments fault as they messed up the bill run this month” is an attitude likely to inflame an already frustrated caller further.

Remain calm and objective, and always focus positively on what steps you can take to resolve their frustrations. Most importantly… listen.


2. Listen

Really listen to what your customer is saying. Don’t interrupt, don’t talk over them and always pause for thought before responding. You are effectively engaged in a conflict resolution situation and the key to success is to understand and empathise with your customer’s core frustrations.

If you’re unsure about something, ask. The more information you have, the better understanding you’re likely to have. And the more a customer feels heard, the sooner they are likely to calm down and work with you. Engage in a conversation and work within your capabilities to come to a resolution or compromise.


3. Manage their expectations around timescales and outcomes

‘ASAP’ isn’t a timescale. Neither is ‘just now’, ‘in a minute’ or ‘later today’. You need to be SMART about managing your customer’s expectations: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-targeted.

Don’t say: “Leave it with me, I’ll call you back ASAP”. This response is not SMART. It implies you have already fixed the problem and the expectation from the customer will be that you will call back within 10 minutes to tell them that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Do say: “Right after our call I’m going to phone our logistics team to confirm a delivery time. I should be able to have an answer for you in 10 minutes. If I don’t, I will call you back anyway to let you know the progress of your query. Can I please confirm your phone number …”. That response is SMART as it implies nothing. It states exactly what you are going to do, and when the customer can expect to hear back from you, regardless of the outcome.


4. Don’t make false promises

If you can’t call your customer back with an answer in 10 minutes, don’t tell them you can. If you can’t give them a discount, don’t tell them you can. They will only be disappointed with whatever result they end up with and you will not have succeeded in creating a happy customer.

[See customer services tip #3 about being SMART with your customers expectations]

Remember, a bad customer service experience travels much quicker than a positive one.


5. Don’t take it personally

Customers may or may not understand that whatever is wrong is not your fault. You just happen to be the unlucky soul that picked up their call.

They may rant and rave - don’t take it personally. They are not attacking YOU. The are frustrated and are looking for a solution. You are there to understand their frustrations and help them to the best of your ability. Remaining calm, reasonable and objective is essential to a peaceful resolution.


6. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself

Yes, ‘the customer is always right’, but it is never ok for a customer to be abusive. Should an abusive situation arise, remain calm and communicate clearly exactly what you are able to do to help resolve the situation. If you feel uncomfortable or if this approach does not work, ask the customer to remain on hold whilst you seek a senior staff member’s assistance.


7. Be human, be compassionate

Don’t respond to every situation with a bored pre-recorded narrative, and remember to always use positive language. To help stay consistent with your tone and process, whilst remaining engaging and positive, use the CARP method to deal with complaints:

  • Control the situation

  • Acknowledge the dilemma

  • Refocus the conversation

  • Problem-solve so the customer leaves happy

This structure will help you listen, guide a customer service call, manage the caller’s expectations and come to a resolution that works. And hey-presto, a happy customer.


Dealing with an unhappy, frustrated customer can be very tricky, but often results in the best kind of job satisfaction. Our best customer service tips are designed to help you manage the conflict resolution in an effective way that results in the best possible outcome - a happy customer.

For more information about how you can leverage the benefits of automation to aid towards your customer service efforts, read this post - and if you'd like to know more about customer service in general, Hubspot have published a very helpful resource "The Ultimate Guide to Customer Service".

Let us know in the comments below if there are any other tips you would add to the list.


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About Author

Annette Gardner
Annette Gardner

I’m a Marketing lover that believes in affecting inbound marketing with great content and beautiful design. I also love Pizza and Coffee - in no particular order.

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