Sales Strategies

What To Do (and NOT Do) With an Unhappy Customer

If you have been in business long enough, you have have experienced at least one unhappy client – no matter how diligent you are at providing outstanding service.

That manual we were given at birth skipped that chapter “How To Handle an Unhappy Customer”. So I decided to provide you with that chapter. (you’re welcome). 🙂

After decades of coaching thousands of salespeople, I have seen the common denominator between salespeople who have minimal customer complaints versus those who are constantly having to put out fires.

Some business owners and salespeople bring chaos amongst themselves (and don’t even realize it).

I worked with a young man for many years. His first year in door-to-door sales he constantly had the police called on him. His second year, his host family kicked him out due to disrespectful behavior.

I finally said to him, “Jack, when are you going to connect the dots that you are bringing these problems upon yourself?”

If you have had more than two customers upset with you in your career, take a hard look at how you are treating them.

  • Are you 1000% clear about your terms and billing?
  • Are you under-promising and over-delivering on what your product or service can provide?
  • Are you 1000% honest and ethicalall the time?
  • Are you treating your clients the way you expect to be treated?

If you stick to these rules, you should rarely have an upset customer.

The DO’s and DON’Ts To Managing an Unhappy Customer

DO return their call/email quickly. Don’t put it off for later in the day or week.

DO take responsibility for the problem.

DON’T blame someone else.

DO go visit them in person. It will mean a lot to your customer, show your willingness to help the problem and it shows you have integrity.

DO apologize profusely.

DO offer a full refund.

DO take a look at yourself and see where something you did created this problem. The more you face the truth, the more likely you can avoid future customer complaints. (see my story below)

DO learn from your unhappy customers. Listen to them. Sometimes a customer complaint can be the best thing that ever happened to you

My Customer Complaint Story

Back in 1994 when I was selling educational books door-to-door to pay my way through college, I learned how important it was to sell to school teachers because their names were huge to have on our customer list.

I finally sold a set of books to my first teacher. I’ll call her Betty.

I was trained to use key names at every house in order to establish credibility and trust with future customers.

So at every house, I shared with everyone that Betty bought from me. And I indeed did increase my sales because of it.

About three weeks later, I received a voicemail from my company’s customer service department that said, “Kate, we just received a call from your customer Betty. She is really upset that you have been using her name at every house. She wants to cancel her book order and she wants a full refund.”


I was super upset. Not only did my best customer cancel, but she was angry at me.

But I took a look at the situation. I did indeed overuse Betty’s name. I never asked her permission to use her name with other families. I took full responsibility for my actions.

So the next 25 years in sales, when I sold a teacher, CEO, police officer, mayor, business owner or anyone whose name I knew would help lead to more sales, I was a ninja about asking their permission first.

I simply said, “Bob, may I add you to my customer list and share with others that you are a customer of mine? You are the President of the bank, so a lot of people know and trust you. I’m sure some of them will call and verify that you truly are a customer of mine. If it gets out of hand, just give me a call and I won’t share with others that you are a customer any further.  (smile). Cool? ”

And I never had one single customer complaint in 25 years after my snafu with Betty.

There is an old saying:

It’s not the things that happen to you, but the way you handle it that defines your character.

So when you receive that unpleasant call from a customer, remember it’s the way you handle it that will define your integrity.



Photo by Pexels


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