Learn from Each Customer

25.06.2018 |

Episode #10 of the course How to serve upset customers by Jeff Toister


Welcome to the final lesson in our course!

Yesterday, I shared a technique you can use to pre-empt a customer’s anger. Did you have a chance to use it? Today, we’re going to talk about ways you can learn something from every angry customer.


What I Learned from My First Customer

The very first customer I ever served was angry, and I learned a lot!

I was 16 years old and had just started working in a retail clothing store. After about 15 minutes of training, the department manager announced she was going on a break and left me alone.

It wasn’t long before a customer approached me. “Do you carry Dockers?” he asked. I didn’t know the answer. I hadn’t even met my coworkers yet, so I didn’t know whom to ask for help.

In a moment of nervousness, I stammered, “I don’t know.” The customer never gave me another chance. He made a remark about terrible customer service, turned on his heels, and stormed out of the store. I learned several very important lessons from that interaction.

The first lesson is customer service is often a team effort. I made a point to meet my coworkers so I had someone to ask for help if I encountered a similar situation in the future.

The second lesson is, you’ll always do better if you know your product inside and out. From that day forward, I tried to learn everything I could about the products we sold and was eventually asked to train new hires on product knowledge.

The third lesson is how to filter what my brain was thinking so I didn’t say the wrong thing to a customer. My brain still thinks, “I don’t know” when a customer asks me a question I don’t have the answer to, but I’ve learned to say, “I don’t know, so let me find out for you!” or something else that’s appropriate.


Always Continue Learning

The best customer service professionals continuously learn ways to provide even better service. We can’t prevent every customer from getting angry, and we can’t make every angry customer happy again, but we can try to learn from every situation.

One specific technique you can use is an after-action review. You can do this exercise by asking yourself a few questions after serving an angry customer.

1. Why was the customer upset or angry? (Try to understand their perspective.)

2. What could you have done differently to get a better result?

3. Can you prevent this situation from happening again?

These questions can help you understand how your own actions can lead to a better outcome. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily about being “right” when faced with an angry customer. Right or wrong, our goal should be to help the customer feel better. We’re human, so that means there will be times when all of us say or do the wrong thing. At other times, our actions will be perfectly fine, but they still won’t work. What matters is that we always try to learn from our experiences.

I’ve been serving customers for over 25 years. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to never stop learning. Yes, I learned a lot from my first angry customer. I still learn a lot every single day.

Taking this course is a great step toward continuing your own learning. My hope is that you’ve gained valuable insight that will help you better serve angry customers or prevent customer anger in the first place.

Now, it’s up to you to put these ideas into action!

P.S. I’m the author of the popular “Customer Service Tip of the Week.” It’s one email with one customer service tip, sent once per week. You can sign up for free to get weekly reminders and even share them with your colleagues.


Recommended book

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh


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