How you deal with dissatisfied customers will determine whether they remain customers and what impact they have on other prospects.
Dissatisfied customers are a fact of business. No matter how well you do your job, somebody won’t be happy about it. Working with dissatisfied customers presents unique challenges. They’re already customers, so it’s not the same as prospecting; however, they’re unhappy with your business so, in some ways, it’s even more difficult. How you deal with dissatisfied customers will determine whether they remain customers and what impact they have on other prospects. Handling dissatisfied customers the right way can build brand loyalty-the wrong way can turn into a public-relations nightmare.
Dissatisfied customers want to be heard. They would prefer to be heard by the person they’ve been dealing with at the company. When they were considering a purchase, everybody wanted to hear what they had to say. Now that they have a problem, they have to navigate automated menus and the nightmare of customer service call centers. If you want to keep your customers, give them the same attention post-sale as you did pre-sale. Listen to, and try to understand, their problems.
Dissatisfied customers don’t want to hear your steadfast defense of the company. They don’t want to hear why they’re wrong about whatever the problem is. They want somebody to acknowledge their feelings, even if those feelings are misplaced. You don’t have to agree with them to show understanding. Everyone has had a bad experience with a product or service. Show them that you know how they feel, and give them a chance to vent.
Apologizing doesn’t show weakness or admit guilt. It shows that you understand and acknowledge their problem, and feel sorry that they’re experiencing it. Even if you have nothing to do with the problem, it’s still OK to apologize-not for any wrongdoing, but just a general apology reflecting how unfortunate the whole situation is. Sometimes, a simple “sorry” is all dissatisfied customers want to hear.
Sometimes, problems are beyond the ability of a single salesperson to fix. In those instances, all you can do is give reassurances and hold the client’s hand through the service process. Other times, a few simple actions by the salesperson can fix everything. If it’s within your power to fix their problem, just fix it. If it takes a phone call to a manager or service agent to grease the wheels and expedite the process, make the phone call. Put in the extra effort to make the problem go away as quickly as possible. Dissatisfied customers will remember the salesperson who helped make their problem vanish.
Dissatisfied customers can get angry when problems arise. Some of them don’t handle the situation as well as you would hope. Unbelievably, some salespeople respond in kind, escalating the situation to the point of an argument. Almost every day, you can read about salespeople and business owners engaging in virtual screaming matches with customers over social media channels. At the end of the day, the customer looks like the victim, and the business looks immature and tone-deaf.
When problems arise, some dissatisfied customers may attach those problems to the salesperson they’ve been dealing with. When that happens, it can be impossible to salvage the relationship with the salesperson, but not with the company. If the customer has developed a personal grievance with you, hand them off to another salesperson and remove yourself from the equation. It’s not your fault, and it’s not fair, but it is a reality of business.
Taken to the extreme, the customer may develop a grudge against the entire company. Again, there’s very little that can be done. If every effort has been made to apologize and rectify the situation, but the customer is still unreasonably unhappy, it’s time to move on. Once they’ve gone from having a problem to holding a grudge, they themselves have become the problem.
Claire has 4+ years of experience in sales and recruitment. As a Director of Client Services, her main objective is to connect great people to great companies by building strong relationships with both top clients and candidates in the sales industry. She specializes in sales roles of all seniority levels for both enterprise and start-up clients North American wide. When Claire isn't networking with top talent, she enjoys being outdoors, traveling and spending time with friends & family.