Occasionally, into each life, a little rain must fall… in this case, the “rain” is an unhappy customer; this isn’t an “if”, it is a when. When you are in business, and you deal with customers, be it internal customers (employees), external customers (paying customers and clients), or your service partners (distributors, vendors, etc) – eventually someone will feel unheard, uncared for, or mistreated. Should this unhappy customer ruin your day?  Quite to the contrary… if this person takes the time, energy, and effort to speak up and air their grievances – you owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Angry or frustrated customers have two choices… they can speak up, or they can leave you and never do business with you again. Our immediate reaction, as humans, is to try and determine if this customer’s anger is justified. Guess what… the reason that they are angry isn’t at issue…  There is no blame here. You are hearing the customer’s perception and experience of the events, and that is all that matters to them.

At this point, you have the opportunity to surprise, delight, and UPLIFT this customer. You can take control of the situation and win this relationship back, turning this customer into an advocate for life…. OR… you can lose them (and all of the friends with whom they will share their story…). And how can you do this? It’s easy .

First and foremost, this customer does not want a full scale investigation of what went wrong. They don’t want a long drawn out discussion of the events. The upset customer wants to be heard. Let me repeat this most important fact. The upset customer wants to be heard. THEN, when they feel heard, they want you to make the situation right. This customer wants the confidence that they had in you and your business BEFORE the event occurred to be restored. Ideally they want to feel even BETTER about you and your organization than they did before, based upon the way you handle their issue.

The Six Steps to Uplift Angry Customers:

1. Thank them for their feedback. Let them know that the time and energy they took to help you is incredibly valuable. Assure them that you honor them for being willing to share their experience.

2. Empathize with their frustration. They want to be understood, and they want to feel justified in their beliefs. This doesn’t require a long drawn out discussion of similar situations that you have experienced. Typically, a well placed phrase like “I can well imagine how frustrating this must have been for you” …will do very nicely. (Be sure to be genuine about this, or you could sound patronizing.)

3. Acknowledge that you don’t know all the details. Ask them to outline the occurrences that led to their displeasure. Assure them that you are already looking into the details of what happened, and the more information they can provide, the more quickly you will to be able to repair the problem.

4. Apologize. Not just a quick “I’m sorry” but a careful and heart-felt apology for the frustration they have experienced. Remember, they are taking time to help you improve your business. Let them know, in a genuine way, that you are sorry you let them down. (Even if it was not your fault, you can still apologize for the inconvenience, displeasure or discomfort they have experienced.)

5. Take Action. This is truly what the customer wants to know: what are YOU going to do about it?  This is when you can plan to surprise and delight the customer. Your next action will be what the customer remembers. This is no time to skimp. You are working to win back a customer. (And yes, some customers take advantage, but I believe that most do not.) You need to WOW them. And after you have surprised, delighted and UPLIFTED this customer? Then ask yourself “What else can I do for him/her?”

6. The last step?  Follow UP! You want to follow up with a phone call, or if this is an internal customer or someone especially important or nearby, then follow-up in-person. When you are resolving their issues, be sure to ask “Do you mind if I follow up with you in _____ time to make sure we got this right?”. After you bounce back with a great service recovery – that is the time to make double sure they are still feeling delighted with you.

Follow these simple steps and you can take back the control of this situation, turn an angry customer into a brand advocate, and even learn new things about your business that you didn’t already know!  See how valuable an irate customer can be?

Read the 10 Reasons Why Customer Complaints are Good News!

14 replies
  1. ahhuann
    ahhuann says:

    oh man, this article comes at the right time!

    really need it at the moment! thanks a lot for the sharing!

  2. frank stocek
    frank stocek says:

    Excellent, concise, comprehensive and hits the heart of great recovery actions. Thanks for a well written article 🙂

  3. Kam Retnasami
    Kam Retnasami says:

    Excellent article! The companies and employees that abide by these principles will usually be the most successful ones. Angry customers should always be thanked and taken in great consideration as only 5% of dissatisfied customers complain. The other dissatisfied customers who do not complain simply go away & never buy from the same company again. By listening to angry customers and using such opportunities to surprise, delight, and uplift them, companies can significantly boost their customer loyalty. Actually, only a 5% increase in customer loyalty can result in 60-80% higher profit.

  4. Lili
    Lili says:

    It’s good to know then don’t even notice about it.
    Just imagine:-
    Total numbers of Complaint received = Additional $$$$$ that you have earned.
    Whose will reject such valuable offer???

  5. Michael
    Michael says:

    Recently I was in the receiving end and it came from none other than a training provider. I would say they don’t practice what they preach. When they cancel a program, they completely forgotten about me because apparently they did not receive my fax registration and furthermore no payment was received from me. What I get was “we are sorry” and this is how we work, this is our system – too bad for you if you have to go the venue on that day to find out, serve you right. Next time, better pay first and give a call to the service provider to confirm it is on. Be smart please.(Being polite not to call their paying client stupid.). Of course, I decided not to receive anymore of their “spam” mail and had since reported to the authorities when they failed to remove my address after clicking on their “unsubscribe” button and also writing directly to their marketing and IT guys of that company!!!. They definitely loose the business from us for good.

  6. Wong Lai Chun
    Wong Lai Chun says:

    Often, companies are quick to offer service recovery packages and when customers reject them, then conclusions are drawn about customers being ‘difficult’,’unreasonable’ and ‘no way to please’. The power of just listening and empathizing is often underestimated. We are dealing with humans and the ability to handle emotions cannot be removed from the equation. Thanks Andrea for the Six Steps to Uplift the Angry Customers.

  7. Tariq Mahmood
    Tariq Mahmood says:

    I think these six steps if applied to angry customers can really help the company to satisfy their customers and can definitely increase the customers’ loyalty and satisfaction resulting in higher profit.

    A customer is company’s ambassador. An angry customer can easily destroy company’s image and can leave negative impact.

  8. Mary
    Mary says:

    Hi Ron, a BIG THANK YOU for your timely article on “How to Uplift Angry Customers”. Ive been having a lousy 3-4 weeks with an overseas landlord who was demanding, unreasonable and sharp tongue that demoralised me to tell him that I’m retiring after wrapping up his break lease case.

    Reading your article lifted my mood. I can stand up as a professional and state his accusation factually so he will know that his commission of $1600 does not give him the right to put everyone down with threats and holding us accountable for 24mths.

    Thanks for sharing.


  9. Saeed
    Saeed says:

    That was an excellent article and I am sure this will help any one who take care of customers, either internal or external,either unhappy or angry customer. These are the most important tips we have to keep in our mind. If you are working for someone in their business think this is your business then you will not make the same mistakes or you won’t be rude with the customers. Remember what Mr.Gandi said. “you are not doing a favor for them but they are favoring you”

    I appreciate very much for your useful mails about customer relations.

    Kind regards,

  10. anand prakash
    anand prakash says:

    This approach helps set the right attitude to address customer concerns.

  11. Andrea
    Andrea says:


    Well then Saeed, I am so happy you found the blog just in time! Wonderful… thanks for sharing with us….


  12. Naresh Vassudhev
    Naresh Vassudhev says:

    Perfect timing with this article on “Service Recovery”. The last point is a winner – “follow through”.


    Naresh Vassudhev

  13. Chris Sarte
    Chris Sarte says:

    This is a very effective guideline to win back a customer. Had a customer who was over demanding that I have to bear with up to the last minute and was very keen on small details. When suddenly a big mail came in to me. Was reasoning out from the beginning but the fire just gets bigger everytime I explain even in a polite way. I then used these guideline to see if it works and howolah! My customer had a change of mood. Now he offers his helping hand to make my business better. A simple reminder that there is always a way to every customers heart and its just a matter of how to find that soft spot. Here’s how my mail went .. ”

    Thanks for your feedback and the time in sharing your experience . I can imagine how displeased you are and apologize for all the frustrations you have to go through. I truly appreciate your time in giving feedback and constructive comments to help my business grow . It’s people like you that I look up and learn from to become a better individual and entrepreneur. For the most part taking responsibility and listening to what went wrong from the beginning is my leaning curve that I have to work on. I’m in the process of expanding my team to help me assist more customers and accommodate everyone’s concern specially in dealing with commitments . Good luck to your future endeavors and all the best to Emerald Knights team!

    My customer’s reply –

    On behalf of my colleagues and everybody else in circle I would like to you to know that I truly appreciate your understanding on my remarks. It will be a great experience for myself and for the others from the issues that have transpired good or bad we have to move forward and never lean and look backwards instead.

    Just tell us what we can do to help you and we will extend a hand if possible.

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