bonusgreeting unhappy customers

By Laurie Brown

You see a customer coming up to you, and you can tell he is unhappy. In fact, he looks downright angry. You have a couple of choices: run the other way to handle some other business, or find a way to turn his attitude around.

In these situations, when customers are on the offense, you may feel defensive, but this isn’t about you. According to TARP Worldwide, a B2B customer experience agency, 20 percent of customer complaints are caused by employee actions, 40 percent are caused by corporate products and policies, and 40 percent are caused by customer misinformation or misplaced expectations.

This means that when a customer is unhappy, it is statistically unlikely that you are the cause of his or her unhappiness. Remembering this will make it easier for you to brush aside any feelings of defensiveness.

So, what can you do? Greet the customer warmly and sincerely. A truly warm welcome can be totally disarming. “Hello, how can I help you?” is appropriate, even when you find this greeting is not warmly received. The next step is to acknowledge the problem. You might say, “I understand that you’re upset. What can I do to resolve your issue?”

If the customer remains calm and can rationally answer your question, then all you have to do is help him or her resolve the issue. But sometimes customers come in with so much anger that engaging them in a calm and rational manner is not possible. When this happens, you need to take a different approach:

1. Have a goal. Your goal is to resolve the customer’s issue as quickly as possible. The first few minutes you spend with an unhappy customer can have a lasting impact. So when you go into problem-solving mode as opposed to defensive mode, you have a much greater prospect of having that customer leave happy.

2. Check your own attitude. Before you start your workday, conduct a personal inventory: How are you feeling? Are you tense? Are you rested? Did you just have a frustrating commute to work? Did you have an argument with someone? Be aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, and leave any negative emotions or thoughts at the door. You’ll find it is hard to naturally treat others well when you are distracted with other issues.

3. Take a breath. Taking a deep breath can provide a few benefits for you and your customer. Good abdominal breathing lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and brings oxygen to your brain. That means you will be calmer and able to think more clearly. It also will keep you from matching an angry customer’s emotions.

4. Take notes. When you start to take notes about what your customer is saying to you, he or she will feel like you are taking the problem seriously. There is also a side benefit; because you can’t write as fast as the unhappy customer can speak, say, “I want to make sure I get all the details. Would you mind slowing down so I can get the information correct?” Once the customer slows down, he or she also can breathe and start calming down.

View the next upset customer as an opportunity. With the right goal, good attitude, proper breathing and note taking, you can not only turn that customer from unhappy to happy; you can begin the process of creating a customer for life.

Laurie Brown is a Gitomer-Certified Speaker who delivers customized and personalized seminars on sales, customer loyalty and personal development. Visit, or call (704) 333-1112.


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