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5 Steps to Resolving Customer Conflict & Managing Upset Customers

5 Steps to Resolving Customer Conflict & Managing Upset Customers

Most business owners have dealt with frustrated or upset customers at some point. If you’ve been in business long enough, it’s virtually unavoidable. But what isn’t unavoidable is taking important steps to manage these situations and resolve the conflict.

Upset Customers Don’t Have to Remain Upset

How do your team members or customer service reps react during this critical moment of truth for your business?

A moment of truth is “anytime a customer comes in contact with your organization and thereby forms an impression of it.” (Jan Carlzon) These impressions formed over time ultimately set your business up for lasting success or great failure.

The good news is you do have control over your organization’s customer service approach.

Bad Customer Service in Action

I was recently inquiring about a product at a local retail store.

I enquired with the sales associate to see if they carried the product I was looking for. He helps me for several minutes. Then, he suggests he will be right back to answer my question, but he drifts away to his computer before assisting other customers. After waiting for several minutes, I walk back over to the service counter to see if I can get his attention. I assume he is going to continue to assist me after he finishes with the customer he was speaking with. However, after he was done with the current customer, he continues to call up other customers and doesn’t come back to answer my original question.

I step in and ask if he had been able to look up the information I was requiring. And the sales associate remarks, “Oh right, I forgot about that. We don’t carry that product right now.” That’s all he says.

I was frustrated by the way this situation was handled. Most likely, I’ll take my business to a competing store in a future situation.

Sound familiar to something you’ve experienced in your own customer service examples?

I wouldn’t be on this store’s list of upset customers if they took any steps for resolving customer conflict.

A good strategy to resolve customer conflict will hopefully leave the customer with a positive memory of your encounter and an advocate of your brand.

Remember that in many situations, upset customers don’t think of themselves as customers – they think of themselves as people who need your help!

5 Ways to Manage Upset Customers

Use these five steps to skillfully take charge of negative customer situations and to salvage a potentially disastrous encounter.

  1. Focus on the situation only: Engage with the upset customer directly, giving them your full attention and solid eye contact.
  2. Let them vent: Hear the customer out before you step in. If you interrupt they may need to repeat what they have already said.
  3. Empathize with the customer: Perhaps the most important step in resolving this conflict is letting your customer know that you “feel their pain.”
  4. Summarize their situation: Upset customers need to see and hear that you understand their level of frustration.
  5. Problem Solve: Agree on the problem, brainstorm options, agree on the solution and follow up on commitments made.

So, there you have it. Five effective strategies for dealing with upset customers. The notion of “the customer is always right” doesn’t always seem fair or even logical. But there is a reason behind it. Treating the customer as though they are right (and always with respect) goes a long way in boosting customer retention and satisfaction.

We can help train your employees with these strategies. Click here to learn more.

Did you learn a lot about managing upset customers in this post? Here are three more to read next:

This post was first published in 2015 but it was updated in 2021 just for you.


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