5 steps to turn an unhappy customer into your greatest advocate
Customer Experience
5 Jun 2018

Every company dreams of having no negative feedback and no unhappy customers, yet many companies fail to identify their detractors and turn them into promoters.

Why is that important?

First, let’s get back to statistics:

  • At least 30% of consumers stop interacting with a brand they love after the 1st bad experience and around 50% of all the consumers leave the brand for good after several bad experiences. (PwC)

  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs) In the world of internet, “20” people can quickly turn into 20.000. More than 75% of buying decisions are based on reviews.

  • 55% of customers would pay extra to guarantee a better service. (Defaqto research)

If you’re still not convinced that customer experience is not a cost, but a whole new business opportunity not to be missed, I would add that a 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 – 95%. (Bain & Company).

So what should you do in order to decrease your churn?

Here’re 5 steps that will help you to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

Originally defined by Jonathan Sprinkles, the 5-step method takes a new approach to the negative feedback.

1. Appreciate

Thank the customer for sharing the feedback with you. According to these statistics, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who don’t say anything (and 91% of them will simply leave). That same customer could’ve easily shared their thoughts online, but instead, they turned to you.

Even if a customer is extremely angry, take your time and thank them for the time they spent on writing to you. Most of the time, you can turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one if you show how much you care.

2. Acknowledge

Sounds silly, but when talking to an angry customer, be a human. Acknowledge the problem of the customer and sympathize.

First, I remember that their [dissatisfied customers’] anger, in most cases, is not about me personally – it’s a reflection of them having a feeling of undeserved pain, and can be affected not only by the specifics of the current situation, but the ramifications of the situation if it’s not resolved, unrelated stresses from their work and home lives, and their personal ability to cope with stress, and the norms of anger management they’re used to. Since it’s not about me, I can then listen without taking things personally.” – comments Dave Dyson, Sr. Customer Service Evangelist at Zendesk.

3. Apologize

Don’t be afraid to say sorry to your customer for the bad experience they received. It might have been your company’s fault, it might have not been. You don’t have to take the blame but show that you care and sympathize with them.

4. Act

Your customer doesn’t want to know why or how the problem happened, they want it to be solved. Period.

Resolve the problem in the individual order or if applicable, share the issue with the responsible department.

5. Accountability

That means that you have to promise only what you can actually deliver and rebuild trust.

I try first to validate the emotions they’re feeling by accurately reflecting back to them. This is a way of showing that I care. Once they trust that I care, then it’s easier to work with them on a possible solution or workaround. I make sure I’m on the same page with them on what the problem is. I’m honest and as transparent as I can be, even when that means I’m delivering an answer I know they won’t like. I only commit to actions I can follow through on (which includes me not making commitments on anyone else’s behalf). And then I follow through on any commitments I’ve made.

My strategy is simply helping solve the problem as best I can. Hopefully, that helps repair trust, and if they become a promoter, that’s even better – but it’s not an outcome I have in mind. I don’t want to make the situation about me, in the same way, that I wouldn’t ask someone to give me a positive satisfaction rating. I’d rather have their honest feedback, even when it’s negative. Helping decrease people’s stress always makes me feel like a hero” – adds Dave.

At the same time, this process focuses very much on customer service point of view. As you remember, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who don’t say anything, so is it possible you encourage your customers to speak up?


If you want to find out how to make strategic decisions and turn your unhappy customers into promoters, identify if your company delivers great customer experience and how you can make it even better, download our webinar!

- Lumoa