The 3 Things You Need to Do When You've Upset Your Customer

If your customer is letting you know he's not happy with your business, you have a chance to make things right. Here's how.

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By Tom Borg • Jan 1, 2015 Originally published Aug 8, 2014


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever had a customer complain to you about your product or service? If so, consider yourself lucky. Why? Because most people with a complaint will simply never come back to the business where they were wronged. They opt for the easy way out. The fact that you have a customer coming back to you at all is an opportunity to make things right and win their future business.

A recent retail survey showed that on average, approximately one out of every four purchases goes wrong. Either the product does not work or malfunctions, is the wrong size, the representative says or does something to irritate the customer, or something just isn't right.

Tom Peters, an expert on customer service excellence, revealed that simply taking care of the customer after you make a mistake is a major key to customer retention.

Related: Giving Customers More Than They Asked for Is Too Much of a Good Thing

1. Say sorry, and mean it. An upset customer needs to hear you say sorry. Genuinely apologize for the inconvenience they have experienced. Most times people will forgive you if you sincerely and empathically say "I'm sorry." There is something magical in using the words.

2. Don't stop the customer from venting. At this point the customer will want to vent some more. Let them do it. It is extremely important to simply listen. After listening and empathizing, if it is still unclear what the customer is asking of you, ask the question, "What do you want me to do?" Once you get that answer, promptly do everything in your power to do what they request. Exchange the product or re-perform the service. If that is not possible, give them a credit or a refund. Whatever you do to remedy the situation, do it promptly and courteously.

3. Make a peace offering. The last step to take is to do something extra for the customer. When you are able to do this, you give yourself an opportunity to exceed their expectations and even amaze them. By doing this, you position your business to be the place they come back to the next time they have a need for what you offer.

Related: Your Secret Resource to Get a Better Product: Customer Service

To do something extra does not mean you give away the store. It could be something as simple as making a follow up phone call to see if everything worked out. Or it could be giving them a coupon for 10 percent off their next purchase. If possible, it could also be just not charging them for the purchase of whatever the service or item happened to be.

Doing something a little extra is a good example of proactive marketing to your customers. It can go a long way in building good will and trust. This is the stuff of champions. This type of mindset and action will help spread the word of your company's ability to deliver what is promised.

So, when you get complaints, respond with this three-step approach and watch your customer satisfaction ratings soar.

Related: 6 Ways to Keep Clients Happy

Tom Borg

President of Tom Borg Consulting

Tom Borg is a business expert who works with small and mid-size companies to profitably improve customer acquisition and retention and employee performance. He does this through his consulting, speaking, and professional writing. For more information on how he can help you and your company call   (734) 404-5909 or email him at: or visit his website at:

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