Making Unhappy Customers Happy Again

Posted by Corey Smith on Dec 21, 2023 7:22:00 AM

Happy Customers - Hamburger

In my opinion, the two most perfect food options are hamburgers and pizza. In fact, I’ve worked really hard to learn how to make the best burger and the best pizza I can. I’ve worked for years to come up with the recipe I love for each part of each, from the bread to the sauces and the toppings. It must be done right.

For example, I’ve created my favorite burgers by modifying my wife’s meatloaf recipe and then grilling that. I then add my almost-sorta-famous blackberry chipotle BBQ sauce. I then load that up on my homemade Hawaiian sweet burger bun.

You could say I’m a bit obsessed. But, I make it to my standards and only worry about what I think is best. Sure, others like it, but I’m not sure everyone would say, “It’s the best in the world” (Even I wouldn’t say that).

But, here’s the interesting part (at least to me). I’m still okay with cheap burgers. I’m good with fast food or fast casual burgers in the same way I love gourmet burgers. When I’m in a new place, I seek out what the locals consider the best burger. I am also happy eating the super cheap burger at the Little League ballpark made by the volunteers who don’t really know what they’re doing.

The key is that the expected experience must match the real experience. If I pay for and expect a cheap burger, I love it. But, if I pay for and expect a gourmet burger and receive a poor experience or a cheaply-made burger, then I’m angry.

Is the Customer Really Always Right?

Over the years, I’ve written a lot (and thought about it even more) about the customer experience. In fact, I recently wrote the following (you might find them interesting):

I believe strongly that it’s my job to do whatever I can to make my clients happy. Yes, I have to make sure that it fits within the scope of work. I have to make sure it fits budgets (as long as I did a good job on the scope of work). I have to make sure that I optimize the value for the client. You can read a bit more on the value gap in my blog post titled Is a Cheap Website Worth It?.

I’ve concluded that the old adage of “The Customer is Always Right” is simply a farce. The customer is most often right but not always right. Your job is to always do what you can to make your customer happy, even if your customer is wrong. Because I can guarantee one thing… if your customer is arguing with you about your contract, then your customer would not agree that they are wrong.

6 Ways To Make An Unhappy Customer Happy Again

The reality is, you can never make everyone happy. I often think back to something my father would say, “If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing to no one.”

Your goal should be to never make a mistake. You should do everything in your power to not only do what you promise but do more. In my team, we call it “surprise and delight.” But, you are going to falter. You are going to make mistakes and this will cause dissatisfaction in your customers.

Whether it’s a problem within your control or outside of your control, it’s your responsibility to do what you can to bring your customer back into a world of happiness.

Here are six ways to help an unhappy customer be happy again. I think all of these are important and you should do everything you can to master these skills.

Active Listening

Take the time to fully understand your customer’s concerns and frustrations. It’s important to show empathy and listen attentively to their feedback without interrupting. By engaging in active listening, you provide a safe space for customers to express their dissatisfaction. This approach makes the customer feel heard and valued, as you genuinely care about their experience and want to understand their perspective. But, don’t fake it. Put yourself in a place where you can truly listen to help and not listen to check off a box.

Apologize and Take Responsibility

If there was an error or mistake on your part, it’s essential to take ownership of it. Sincerely apologize to the customer for any inconvenience caused. This shows that you acknowledge their dissatisfaction and are willing to make it right. Taking responsibility demonstrates your commitment to excellent customer service and builds trust with the customer.

Offer a Solution

Once you have understood the customer’s concerns, it’s important to work with them to find a solution that addresses their specific needs. Consider different options, such as offering a replacement, a refund, a discount on future purchases, or any other gesture appropriate to their particular situation. Present these alternatives and let the customer choose the one they feel most comfortable with. This allows the customer to feel involved in the resolution process and increases their satisfaction with the outcome.

Timely Resolution

It’s crucial to act promptly to resolve the customer’s issue. Delaying the resolution can further frustrate the customer and damage your brand’s reputation. Provide clear timelines and keep the customer informed about the progress of the resolution. Regular updates demonstrate your commitment to resolving their problem and help manage their expectations. By keeping the lines of communication open, you show that you value their time and concerns.

Follow Up

After the resolution, it’s important to follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction. Send a personalized message or make a phone call to check if the issue has been fully resolved and if they are now happy with the outcome. This extra step shows that you genuinely care about their experience and are willing to go the extra mile to make things right. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to further strengthen your relationship with the customer and potentially turn their negative experience into a positive one.

Identify What You Could Have Done Differently

Take time to learn from your mistakes. Even if you really weren’t at fault, there may be something more you could have done to help mitigate the risks of an unhappy customer. It could have been as simple as better communication or planning further ahead. You always have something you can learn to help minimize these risks. Don’t be afraid to share these ideas with your unhappy customers. That level of transparency can often break down barriers.

What If You Can’t Reach a Resolution?

There will be times when you can’t come to a resolution to make your customer happy. The most common reasons I see where you may not be able to come to a resolution could include:

  • Your customer is actually flat-out wrong
  • Your customer is trying to scam you
  • Your customer is simply unreasonable
  • Your customer is unwilling to come to a compromise

Before you give up, do the following:

  • Make sure you are being reasonable in your proposed solution
  • Make sure you are taking the time to consider the alternatives that your customer is suggesting
  • Give your customer’s suggestions/requests more than fair consideration
  • Evaluate the cost of not allowing your customer to “win the argument”

Sometimes you might just have to part ways without a resolution. Sometimes you have to accept responsibility for something that is clearly not your fault. Make sure you are fighting the right fight.

Do everything in your power to make your customer happy. If you can’t, make sure you understand the consequences before you move on. What really matters is that you’ve done everything you can with what you have to work with.

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.