Recover an Angry Customer

25.06.2018 |

Episode #7 of the course How to serve upset customers by Jeff Toister


So far in this course, we’ve focused on de-escalating angry or upset customers. Today, we’re going to think beyond that interaction. Angry customers can still have a lasting impact on our business, even if we’re able to cool things down.


How Angry Customers Impact Your Business

Here are a few startling statistics:

• Poor service costs US companies $75 billion per year (NewVoiceMedia).

• 70% of angry customers spread negative word-of-mouth (Dr. Venessa Funches).

• Less than 50% of angry customers complain (John Goodman).

Dr. Funches’s study revealed that 58% of angry customers continued doing business with the company but found other ways to hurt the business. This included posting negative online reviews (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, etc.), doing less business, or avoiding specific locations or employees.

There is a silver lining here.

Customers often become even more loyal if we are able to fully recover from a situation that made them upset or angry. I was lucky to learn this lesson from a customer early in my career, while working as an account manager for a company that sold business uniforms.

A customer called me, very upset about a mistake in the shipment of jackets she received. I listened carefully to let her vent and discovered she had bought the jackets to give out at an awards ceremony. She was now anxious about having the jackets in time. I apologized profusely for the error and vowed to make things right in time for her event. A replacement order was rushed through, and I called her to follow up and make sure the new jackets looked good. They did and my client was now relieved. Better yet, what was initially a poor customer service experience suddenly became a very positive one!


Helping Customers Feel Great Again

Here are steps you can take to help a customer recover and feel great again after a frustrating or upsetting experience.

De-escalate. Use the skills we’ve learned so far in this course to help your customer feel better in the moment.

1. Recognize the fight-or-flight instinct and take a breath.

2. Listen carefully to your customer.

3. Avoid using trigger words.

You may find your customer is feeling better at the end of the interaction, but not great. That’s okay. We often need some time to cool down a bit after getting upset.

Recover. Here are things you can do once your customer has had an opportunity to cool down.

1. Follow up. Check in on your customer in person, over the phone, via email, or even with a handwritten note. Make sure your customer is satisfied with the outcome and let your customer know you care.

2. Offer a small gift. When practical and appropriate, offer your customer a small gift as a token of appreciation for their business. This could be frequent customer points, a credit or discount, a gift card, or a small free item.

One word of caution about gifts. Be careful when giving a customer something extra, or the goodwill gesture may backfire. For example, offering a customer a free dessert because they didn’t like their salad may not be appropriate if the customer is trying to eat a healthy meal.

Reconnect. Once we help an angry customer recover, we may get a chance to serve that person again. It is helpful to reconnect with that customer in a positive way if you get the opportunity. For example, you might go out of your way to give them a warm and friendly greeting and thank them for their business. Or you could use the opportunity to follow up on their last experience and verify they are still satisfied with the solution.

This is a great way to continue moving forward and build a more positive relationship with that customer.

Here’s an exercise you can use to practice your follow-up techniques.

1. Pick an angry customer to follow up with. If you haven’t served one recently, try reviewing your customer service survey results for complaints or low scores.

2. Contact the customer to follow up and make sure everything is okay.

These follow-up contacts can be a real learning experience!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent customers from getting angry in the first place? Tomorrow, we’ll learn a technique that can help with this.


Recommended reading

When Giving Customers a Little Extra Is a Big Mistake


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