5 Steps to Make an Unhappy Customer Happy Again

love We’ve all heard the basic rules of customer service. But they deserve repeating before we discuss how to resolve a customer complaint.



Rule #1: The customer is always right.

Rule #2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule #1.

These two rules are sufficient most of the time. However, sometimes we must realize:

Rule #3: The customer may not always reasonable.

You must know your boundaries in dealing with an unreasonable customer. If you’re a leader, you must communicate these boundaries to your people so they are effective when customers complain.

5 steps to make an unhappy customer happy again

Step #1 – Let the customer vent.
Before you can attempt to resolve the situation, you must understand it. Find out exactly what is troubling your customer. 

Step #2 – Listen attentively.
While this is really part of Step #1, it is so important that it bears special emphasis. Pay attention to what your customer is and isn’t saying. What are his or her specific objections?

#3 – Restate the complaint or complaints.
Wait until he or she has completely “unloaded”. Then, repeat back to your customer the complaints he or she has registered.

You may say, “Please let me make sure I completely understand your concerns.”  Then restate the complaint.

Step #4 – Assure them.

This is not to say that you agree with him or her. It simply lets your customer know that you recognize how they feel.  There is a difference!    You may say things like:

* “I can understand why you might feel that way.”
* “I can see your point.”
* “I can appreciate that.”

#5 – Find out what they want.

Everything has led to this point.  Simply ask the customer this question: “What would you like me to do?”

If you have handled yourself correctly up to now, you will find they will usually ask for less than you would expect.  If so, give it to them! If not, offer them a reasonable option to resolve the issue. 

Let them decide how they can be happy again.  It will be rare when you can’t find a good solution that makes both of you happy.

Complaints are an opportunity

Good things can come from a customer complaint. You can learn how to improve your procedures.


georgeI once owned a carpet cleaning business. I remember a customer complained because we didn’t get the furniture put back exactly where she had it. We had a chair misplaced by about an eighth of an inch. From that day on, we asked every customer to look at the room before we left to make sure we had everything in the right place. Our customers were thrilled at this simple change in process!


Remember this, if a customer is unhappy, they’ll usually do one of two things:

Take their business elsewhere or complain. Which do you prefer?

Research shows that customers, who have had problems resolved to their satisfaction, produce three times the revenue of a customer without a problem. On top of that, they are much more likely to recommend you to their friends and family.

Sounds like a good reason to try to make unhappy customers happy again!


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(Image by APatterson)

11 replies
  1. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    These are great tips! I deal with customer complaints all the time. There are some people who can be downright mean. I have to bite my tongue when dealing with those types, but they can really get my blood boiling.

    I think you should follow up with steps customers should use when making a complaint so they can get the best result.

  2. Mary-Lynn
    Mary-Lynn says:

    Theresa, we hear your frustration. Some people are looking for a punching bag. Fortunately, it sounds like you are the grownup during a difficult conversation.

    We love your show idea and we’ll definitely do that! Thanks for sharing today.

  3. Pavel
    Pavel says:

    Back when I used to work at LazerQuest (i lasted exactly the length of the probationary period), they had us follow the “LAST First” process:

    L- listen
    A- apologize
    S- solve
    T- thank

    Sounds simple enough, right? Well, if you could ever get past step 1!

    Mary-Lynn — I think “punching bag” is a spot-on description of what most of those customers were looking for.


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