As we have discussed previously in this series, the goal of every business with regard to customer service should be to create raving fans—customers and clients who love your products and services so much that they can’t stop talking about you.

However, no matter how great your service is, it is inevitable that you will have to deal with unhappy customers from time to time.

Over the years, I have observed that many businesses have no real plan for dealing with unhappy customers. So let’s talk about this important process.

The first step in dealing with an angry or upset customer is to empathize with them. There is nothing more frustrating, for an angry customer, than to feel like the person on the other phone simply doesn’t care. Phrases like “I completely understand” are helpful, but must be delivered sincerely, not patronizingly.

Once you have tempered their emotions by empathizing with them, you can begin to address their complaint. Talk through the situation and make sure you understand specifically what they are upset about, and what they want you to do about it. If you or your team is at fault, it’s crucial to do whatever must be done to make the situation right… even if it costs you money out of your pocket. The damage done by a vocally unhappy customer can be tremendous, so don’t risk it!

The next step, which the vast majority of businesses don’t do, is to follow up in a week or two and make sure that the customer is happy. Nobody expects that type of service, so it’s an opportunity to WOW the customer and turn them into a raving fan!

It’s also important to understand that a complaint or an angry customer is a warning sign. Why is the customer unhappy to begin with… what was the root cause? Sure, sometimes customer complaints have no merit. But often, their displeasure is rooted in a problem with your business systems—whether it is poor customer service, unfulfilled expectations, or something else entirely. Whenever you receive a complaint, evaluate the situation and ask yourself if there is something that YOU need to change going forwards.

No business owner enjoys dealing with angry customers, but it comes with the territory. Smart businesses have a plan for managing unhappy customers—do you?