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The Challenge of Communicating Effectively with the Unsatisfied Customer

The Challenge of Communicating Effectively with the Unsatisfied Customer

How many times have you, as a customer, run into the problem of excuses. There is a problem, and the salesperson, technician or customer service representative is making lame excuses, namely:

  • It is the fault of the computer.
  • It is the fault of the other sales clerk.
  • It is the fault of the chief of the department.
  • It is the fault of the system.
  • It is the fault of the Government.
  • It is just the way it is.

Sometimes it feels as if nothing is anybody’s fault or is in anybody’s department. There’s just no accountability.  This is poor customer service. Good customer service means accountability, responsibility and taking action to satisfy the customer in a timely fashion, and if it cannot be resolved in a timely fashion, keeping the customer in the loop.  Good communication.

[bctt tweet=”Good customer service means accountability, responsibility and taking action”]

In a previous post I discussed what “not to say” 10 Phrases That Will Always Make me Cringe, so now let’s address the notion of how to communicate with an unsatisfied customer.

If your customer is unsatisfied (for just or unjust reasons), you will have to use some of the many techniques of the customer service professional to win their support and continued loyalty. When coming into contact with a customer, communicating with him/her, or analyzing problems, do not forget to use the following methods or qualities of the exceptional customer service professional:

Listen: It is of primary importance when dealing with an unsatisfied or complaining customer to listen attentively to his/her complaint, gripe, frustration or grievance. Be patient, attentive, and friendly.  Stay calm and focused on the problem, often just listen will in and of itself solve the problem.  Honestly, sometimes the customer just wants to be heard, they just want to vent.

Express that you are sorry: An authentic apology and/or acknowledgment of the issue can be a powerful thing and it’s often overlooked.

  • ‘We are sorry for this mistake/problem.”
  • “We are terribly sorry for this inconvenience.”
  • “How can we work to solve this problem together?”
  • “I can imagine how frustrated you are.”
  • “Let’s see if we can’t find a reasonable solution.”

Do not argue and do not interrupt: This will only worsen the situation, especially if the customer is angry. Let him speak before you try to discuss with him what has happened.  Often times the customer just wants to be heard, so let them speak.

Take detailed notes of what they tell you: This way you have your notes to refer back to throughout your conversation.  If you missed something that they said, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it.  They’ll get that you are trying to really understand their problem.

Say back to them what you heard:  Repeating back to them the issue that they described to you let’s them know that you really were listening.  This is a powerful thing.

Do not lose your self-control: If you stay relaxed, customers will calm down.  Keep your voice on an even tone.  Do not take the complaint personally, this is not an attack on you, even though it can often feel that way.

Point out facts: Detailed note taking is essential for you to be able to properly address the complaint, and to ensure that there are no details left out of the conversation.  This also gives you the data you need to fix the issue, and make sure that it does not happen again.  Do not make any comments until the customer is finished talking.

Admit the problem: If you can suggest a solution, do it. If not, tell the customer what actions you will take and what actions will follow. Never make the mistake of promising something you are not able to do.

Do what you say: If you tell the customer that you will get back to them today, or by 3:00 or whatever, do it.  Even if you don’t have an answer or a solution yet.  Do what you say you’re going to do and if you can’t deliver by the time you promised, tell them that.  Say something like, “I promised to get back to you with an answer by 3:00.  Unfortunately I don’t have an answer yet, but I wanted to let you know that I am still working on it and will get back to you as soon as I can.”  Customers are people too, and they get that things don’t always work out the way you think they will or in the timeframe that you think they will.

Involve the customer in problem solving: Suggest the customer alternative solutions, if they exist. Customers appreciate the opportunity to choose the ways of problem solving.

Be honest: If you begin to investigate the problem and find that you cannot resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction or at all, tell them.  Don’t leave them hanging or ignore them and hope they’ll just go away.  Own it and tell them the truth.  Bad news is better delivered sooner than later.

Put yourself in their shoes: We all make mistakes sometimes.  Maybe the customer is truly in the wrong.  Give the customer a “way back”: You needn’t point out joyfully, that they were mistaken.  You should let them leave with dignity, without feeling embarrassed.

Do not question the customer’s correctness: From the very beginning you should believe that the customer may be right. Always be open minded toward the customer’s opinion, make them feel they deserve to be listened to.

Solving the Customer’s Problems

[bctt tweet=”When you listen to the customer’s complaint you take responsibility to solve the problem.”]

When you listen to the customer’s complaint you take responsibility to solve the problem.

  • Listen without interruption and with full attention.
  • Behave without aggression, and without arguing.
  • Do not extend excuses for the problem, and thank the customer for drawing their attention to it and helping solve it.
  • Express sympathy and full understanding.
  • Customer service problem solving involves:
  • Ask necessary questions to get more complete information and completed picture of a situation
  • Find out exactly what the customer needs you to do for them
  • Explain first what you can do, and then gently add what you cannot do
  • Discuss in detail all opinions, and then decide what needs to be done
  • Undertake immediately what was discussed
  • Check the result to make sure the customer is completely satisfied

communicating-effectively-green-notepadFollow -Up with the Customer

It pays to please.

We like companies that treat us well, and some people will even pay more to obtain this.

Here are some recent statistics that prove the point:

  • People spend up to 10 percent more for the same product or service when better customer service is given
  • When people receive good service, on average, they tell 3 people
  • When people receive poor service, on average, they tell 10 people
  • There is an 80 percent chance that customers will repurchase from a company if their complaint is handled quickly and pleasantly
  • If the service is really poor, 90 percent of customers won’t come back

It is extremely important to make sure that all customer service measures that were discussed or promised are in fact taken. It is not enough for the customer to experience a satisfactory telephone or face-to-face interaction. If nothing positive comes of the contact they will be even more frustrated and unhappy. Make sure you do whatever you have promised in a timely manner.


Initiative is the difference between adequate customer service and customer service that wins you a customer for life.

[bctt tweet=”Initiative is the difference between adequate customer service and customer service that wins you customer for life.”]

Everyday examples of exceptional customer service:

  • Taxi driver who opens the door for you or waits at night for you to safely get into your destination.
  • Computer technician who does computer work and then calls back a week later to make sure your IT is functioning well.
  • Car salesperson that calls a month after you buy a car to make sure it is running well and that you are pleased.
  • The electric company who calls and checks to make sure your service is working well and apologizes for any “brown outs” or “black outs.”

None of these customer service people HAD to make this extra effort or go to this trouble. These “goodwill initiatives” are beyond the call of duty and make the customer beyond satisfied. They make the customer remember the transaction or occasion, and that can win you a customer for life.