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Jun 30, 201411:42 AMOpen Mic

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Why the BBB loves unhappy customers and you should too

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At the Better Business Bureau, we talk, online chat, email, and write to many unhappy customers every day. Our customer information specialists and trade practice consultants work hard to calm nerves, put problems in perspective, and get customers and businesses working on a resolution.

From our perspective, every unhappy customer gives us one more chance to teach someone good buying behavior, savvy consumer tips, and reasonable expectations. The BBB welcomes unhappy customers because they provide a great opportunity to work toward our mission of advancing marketplace trust.

For your business, unhappy customers can be a source of angst and frustration. You may think they are out to get you, harm your reputation, or take advantage of the situation in order to get something for nothing. Of course, there’s always a small chance for that, but consider that the majority of unhappy customers really don’t want to be unhappy. They want the transaction with your company to go well. They want a perfectly completed service or a great purchase from your company. When they don’t get what they want, you should be happy when they tell you so.

Of course, the problem can be that they will more likely complain to others before they complain to you. They may Yelp, tweet, or update their status about their unsatisfactory experience, and sometimes you will never know. So take advantage of the opportunities when they do tell you. When they file complaints with the BBB, post customer reviews on our site, email you, or call you about the problem, pay attention to what they are saying. Once you get past the frustration and anger, unhappy customers can provide amazing feedback for improving your business.

How to get past the nitpicky nonsense and get to the heart of the matter

You won’t be able to dig for the nuggets of gold during an exchange with a customer unless you’re willing to really listen. Here are some tips for making the best of any situation with an unhappy customer.

  1. Start with an open mind. Having no expectations of how the exchange will go, including holding your judgment about the customer until you’ve heard the whole story, will help.
  2. Listen and empathize. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes while he or she is telling the story. How would you feel if this happened to you?
  3. Try to connect and be personal. If you use standard responses, the customer will know. He or she needs to know you are listening (see tip No. 2).
  4. Apologize. Saying “I’m sorry” can have a huge impact on the outcome of your exchange with an unhappy customer. It can break down walls of anger and help ensure a relaxed, effective exchange of information. It can even affect what the customer says to others about your business. Apologies can be extremely powerful.


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