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Customer Service

Oftentimes, a negative experience that a customer has with your business can be salvaged and turned into an opportunity to win them over for life.

But being able to handle negative feedback in a positive way takes plenty of practice. Your business can get a head start by following established advice on interacting with customers in these less-than-ideal situations.

Poorly handled customer complaints are one of the quickest ways you can destroy an otherwise stellar service reputation.


1. Time is of the Essence

I’ve made some pretty strong cases for spending more time with your customers, but you saw the data above … complaints are a slightly different beast that greatly benefit from being resolved quickly.

A customer leaving a feature request won’t sweat the fact that it took you a day to get back to them. However, unhappy customers want resolution yesterday, so you need to make responding to them a priority.

In almost every other instance I would encourage you to slow down your service, but in this case you need to make moves to right the wrong as soon as possible!

2. Verify the Resolution

Have you ever tried to contact customer service through an online form, and after you hit submit there wasn’t a single follow-up notification on whether or not action had taken place?

This is frustrating, because you don’t have a clue where your issue—and any hope of resolving it—stands.

The same thinking applies to resolving customer conflicts via email or phone. You want to be absolutely sure that the customer is clear on the resolution that occurred and that it met their needs. So if you’re not ending your responses with an inviting question to do more, then start now.

3. Drop the Formalities

Customers want to be treated with respect, but if you stop treating customers like regular people and start talking like a corporate stiff then they won’t interpret the interaction as genuine.

Research suggests that personalization is powerful when interacting with anyone, but especially with your customers.

Remember that you’re not speaking to the Queen of England, so refer to your “chat” with a customer rather than your “correspondence” with them, and speak as if you were talking with an acquaintance. A little familiarity can go a long way toward getting customers on your side.

4. Involve Them to Avoid Overcompensating

You already know that you don’t have to buy an amazing customer experience, so throwing freebies at customers over issues that could have been resolved in other ways is a surefire way to lose your shirt.

Instead, if a complaint is genuine and the mistake is on your end, involve customers in resolution decision-making through phrases such as, “What do you think would be fair?”

5. Don’t Drag Out a Lost Cause

If a customer wants to cancel their account, do it for them right away. Better yet, let them cancel without having to call your company at all. It should be just as easy to cancel as it was to sign up.

Winning customers back with exception customer service is an important aspect of your business that you should focus on (and the thesis for this whole article!), but when customers already have one foot out the door let the parting be as friction-less as possible.

Customers aren’t necessarily done with you for good just because they cancel their account once, so don’t hassle them as they exit. Remind them what they’ll be missing by simply being sincerely helpful.

6. Get to a Medium Where You Can Take Action

People love to complain on Twitter, but it’s hard to successfully resolve a complaint within that channel.

Instead, refer people to an email address they can contact with their issue and assure them that you are ready, willing and able to get this problem resolved right way.

Trying to achieve anything more in limited spaces like social media just results in a public back-and-forth that rarely goes anywhere productive.

  1. CARP Diem
  • Control
  • Acknowledge
  • Refocus
  • Problem solve

In other words, take control of the situation with language that shows you are ready to handle customer concerns and don’t intend to play any games. Acknowledge that you completely understand their concerns and won’t be brushing them off.

Next, refocus away from their emotions to the problem at hand, outlining how you’ll take care of it. Finally, solve the problem they initially came to you with, confirming that everything has been resolved to their satisfaction.

  1. Don’t Take it Personally

You and I both have bad days from time to time, and your customers do, too, so don’t hold it against them!

Even with the absolute worst barnacle customers, you need to practice pushing their mistreatment aside and recognize that you can’t control how miserable people act—but you can control how you react.


Consider the following statistics:

  • Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time
  • Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.