How You Can Turn Unhappy Customers Into Fans


Regardless of whether you’ve been a business owner for a long time or are fairly new at it, encountering unhappy customers is inevitable! You will, whether you like it or not, at some point have to deal with people displeased with your product or service.    

It’s not exactly a desirable scenario but if you handle the problem well, it’s actually possible to turn an irate client into a loyal, lifetime fan. 

In case you’re wondering how you can make that happen, listen up. We have some suggestions to share!

1. Listen intently

Effective listening is an important part of communication - and so it is with customer service. 

When dealing with an unhappy customer, the first thing you need to do is to listen with the right intention. Pay attention, maintain eye contact, and actively listen to their concerns so you can fully understand the reason behind their dissatisfaction. 

As the late Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ once said:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Fight the temptation to cut them off and go on your own tangents. That would just escalate the tension further.

2. Apologize

A sincere apology can go a long way so mean it when you say sorry. Admit honest mistakes. Feel free to say “this is truly our fault” if that’s the case. 

In an INC article, Ekaterina Walter, co-author of the book ‘The Power of Visual Storytelling, explained the importance of apologizing.

“Authenticity is the golden rule of apologies both online and offline,” wrote Walter. “Be genuine, and, most importantly, avoid a cookie cutter apology. Remember, you are talking to someone who is having a tough day because your product or service didn't deliver. At a minimum, give that person the respect and empathy they deserve.”

Demonstrating genuine concern plays a massive role in turning the negative customer experience into a positive one.

3. Show empathy

Empathizing should always come first before you even start apologizing. More than simply knowing about your client’s problem, you want to understand how they feel. This will allow you to relate with them on a personal level.

“Empathy is going to be your biggest strength when dealing with an angry or upset customer,” SaasList founder and CEO Reuben Yonatan told Forbes. “Focus on putting yourself in their shoes. Really try to feel what they are feeling so that you can show genuine concern and urgency.”

Meanwhile, Zendesk’s 2021 Customer Experience Trends report tells us that:  

“66 percent of customers report being more loyal to a company that shows they’re empathetic and understanding when a customer has an issue and 61 percent say they’ll spend more to buy from a company that is empathetic and understanding.”

4. Ask the right questions

Asking good questions can make it easier for you to gather more information and address the issue at hand.

Open-ended questions (such as “What can we do to resolve this problem?” and “What can I do to fix this for you?”) can help you and the customer explore possible solutions together. If they ever request something difficult or impossible, you can instead offer them alternative resolutions. 

In any case, do not ask disrespectful questions. You want your customer to feel valued and that you are really willing to go out of your way to help them out. 

5. Stay calm and let your voice tone show it

A frustrated customer will likely use a harsh tone as they communicate with you. Nevertheless, you should still maintain a calm tone of voice. Be kind and do not use sarcasm or any insulting words. 

The same thing applies when you’re responding to a negative review on social media. Read your reply before posting it to make sure any aggressive language is eliminated. Remember that other people - including potential customers -  will be able to read your comment and form an opinion about your business based on it.

6. Refer to the customer by name

In the 1936 bestselling self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ author Dale Carnegie taught:

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Using the customer’s name makes them feel you are truly serious in providing personalized service. It also shows you respect and care about them. You’re dealing with them as an individual, not just as another faceless customer. This is an essential step towards building a relationship of trust. 

7. Resolve the issue

Of course, all the above-mentioned pointers would mean nothing if you do not actually resolve the customer’s problem. Step up and offer the best solutions you can come up with. Show a sense of urgency and take swift action. Set clear expectations and meet them. Let them know if one of your team members will be working to assist them moving forward. 

8. Don’t forget to do a follow-up

Last but not least, make sure to follow-up with the customer over the next few days. This is crucial in ensuring that they are finally satisfied with the solution you provided. You can get in touch with them via email or through a phone call.

It is also a good idea to make a tangible gesture (such as a gift card or coupon) to at least make up for the hassle. 


“Your most unhappy customers,” according to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, “are your greatest source of learning.”

Truer words have never been spoken! While difficult customers can be, well, difficult, they can teach you a lot about how you can improve your product or service. You will also learn about how to handle things better when and if you encounter the same concerns in the future. 

Some unhappy customers will even readily share their positive experience with your brand on social media, which could generate positive attention and attract new traffic. You’ll see that all the work will definitely be worth it in the end.

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