How to Recover from a Bad Customer Experience

Updated: May 3, 2020

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In an ideal world, we would only have positive customer experiences. Between the angry clients you have to placate and the harsh criticisms you have to take, reality is a lot different. Even bigger than this, your brand’s reputation is extremely valuable and is not something you want to lose. The good news is that you can (and should) use these downfalls for new opportunities - to grow as a business, fine-tune your customer experience and improve your products. As the expression goes - “There is always light at the end of the tunnel.” It’s what you do to get there.

“33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service.” (American Express)

By recovering a poor customer experience, you’ll demonstrate your ability to solve problems, increase clients’ loyalty and show your genuine concern. Additionally, maintaining a customer relationship is key as retaining customers is much cheaper, in time and money, than attracting new ones.

Negative customer experiences usually arise under two scenarios: product problems (such as bugs and usability tests) and unsatisfactory support. Whatever the way it arrives to you, the pain for your customers is the same and has to be taken seriously. From your choice of words, to managing your emotions and providing appropriate responses, these tips will help you recover from a bad customer experience.

Let them vent

Your customer clearly is angry or frustrated, which means that you need to counteract that emotion by being the calm one. Always remember, the client is not mad at you, but rather at the company - so don’t take it personally. Allowing your customers to freely vent and express their frustrations shows them you’re here to listen and help. A good methodology for that is delicately asking them questions to determine what their problem actually is. This is your opportunity to find a remedy to the issue they are experiencing, while offering your users a safe place to alleviate the pressure.

Invest your time and keep it sincere

Have you ever heard the saying “the greatest gift you can give someone is your time?” This especially applies to your customers. Take time to listen carefully to what they have to say. To understand and defuse the situation, start by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and seeing the situation through their eyes. Give them the feeling that you’re on their side, all the way through and use thoughtful customer service phrases to drive the conversation in the right direction. Firstly, be professional and don’t leave your customer hanging. They have high expectations during this sensitive moment. Secondly, avoid harsh phrases such as “I am unable to do that for you” or “It’s company rules.” Aim for cool and composed phrases such as “We understand your frustration. We’re here to help you” or “Walk us through the issue you’ve been experiencing and we’ll look into this for you immediately.” Thirdly, if the situation is right, don’t be afraid to apologize for the way they are feeling about the experience. For example “We apologize for any frustration this matter has caused you.” Sincerity and patience will go a long way towards winning your customer back.

Take responsibility

Ever been so frustrated that you caved in and made a spontaneous decision? Customers feel the same way. Negative emotions can lead to them packing up and leaving your company for good. Remember, every customer complaint is not your fault. However, since you are one of the faces of the company, it’s important to take ownership in any slip up. Start by identifying the issues caused by your company and address the matter. Offer a generous and genuine apology and back it up with how you’ll take action.

An excellent example of a company taking responsibility is the apology from snack company IRVINS Salted Egg when one customer found a dead lizard in one of their products. The statement alone had people from all over the web flocking to their Facebook page, and praising them and winning back customer hearts. Here is a snippet of the apology:

quote from irvins salted egg

Consumers expect brands to apologize for any mistakes. So, if Elton John’s hit sums it up nicely with his song “Sorry seems to be the hardest word,” remember that it’s also the most rewarding.