Handling unsatisfied customers: Turning a bad experience into a good one

A few weeks ago while visiting  friend’s store that does online delivery of clothes, a customer came in cursing and complaining about a dress she had recently purchased.  She was complaining about the different kind of dress she had ordered for and wanted to return. My friend, Cathy realized it was out of frustration so she did not take it personal and she made sure the customer knew her concerns were being heard. She listened carefully and apologized, but all this did not help in the situation. The client instead got angrier, shouted accusations and rose further into a rage. Within a few minutes she walked out, vowing never to do business again with Cathy.

As she left, this left me thinking about how one can handle unsatisfied and often irate customers while managing their business. This is very clear to most business operators as being one of the major challenges in business. Despite their characters, dealing with such kind of clients is your role however difficult it gets. But if you know what to say and most importantly how to say it, it could help you save the situation and eventually end up with a better relationship with the client than you had before.

Here is what you need to do:

Have self-control: If you are a business operator or sales person in this kind of situation, never argue with the client whenever he/ she is not happy. If you can, try the best to be wrong in order to be right to show that you respect the clients. This will help the customer be more open to you regarding the exact problem and it is from this, that you will be able to know how and from where to address the problem. Always remember that you could lose a very good customer when you create an argument or show displeasure.

Listen carefully: When the client begins to complain, do not try to fix the problem immediately but instead listen carefully and understand why he/she is complaining. Every customer wants and needs to be listened to, acknowledged and understood. Always let the client talk him/her-self out. Give her the body language the will let her realise you are listening with an open mind, also avoid any disruptions while trying to solve the problem with the person. In case you do not understand the customer’s complaint, do not hesitate to ask what it could actually be. This will help this could help in building empathy and rapport with the client this calming down the situation.

Present a solution and empathize with the client: After carefully listening to the customer and understanding their concerns, apologize for the inconveniences caused and immediately suggest a solution. In situations where you are sure about what your customers want, tell them exactly what you are sure they need. For example if you are sure they need a refund for their money, tell them, “I would like to correct all this situation by refunding your money.” If you are not sure about what your customers need to solve the problem, kindly request them to suggest their preferred opinion. If these are not convenient for you, kindly ask them again to consider something that will favor both of you. You should bear in mind that even if problem solving is not your responsibility, do not tell them so. You can ask the client to patiently hold on and then get all facts required and later return to them with a practical solution.

Action and follow up: On agreeing on the best solution, take action immediately. It is important that you explain to the client each and every step you will go through to fix the problem.

Once the problem has been solved, follow up with the client after an agreed period of time to find out if they are happy with the solution. It is at times recommended that you go beyond their expectations through different ways like sending them an apologetic email and thanking them for the cooperation. You can also offer them the same product or service at a discount on the next purchase, but be mindful that it makes business sense to your enterprise.

Finally, the staff in your business or organisation should be trained on how to handle such customers more successfully. They also need a strong managerial support and the opportunity to develop appropriate strategies to ensure good relations between the company and its clients.


By Mackline Ampurira


Mackline  joined BLEGSCOPE Team as an Intern and is now a Management Consultant Trainee. She previously worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Health in conjunction with (USAID) Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Team as a Research Assistant. She has interest in Marketing, Management and Human Resources. You can follow her on Twitter >>@mackampurira


BLEGSCOPE is the brand name representing all BLEGSCOPE business and other initiatives that operate under BLEGSCOPE Capital Ltd (BCL).

BCL is an investment holding company based in Uganda that was set up to provide a valuable and unparalleled platform for like-minded entrepreneurs to exploit the numerous business and investment opportunities in the Great Lakes region.

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