Customer Service Recovery Tips

For many, a complaining customer, is one no business wants or needs.  The complaining customer is probably speaking in harsh tones, short of patience, demanding and working on your last nerve. The average employee may not know how to handle this type of customer and require assistance with understanding the impacts of not dealing with this type of customer skillfully and turning a negative situation into a positive one.

Did you know that most people share their negative experiences more than their positive ones?  Did you know that by word of mouth alone 1 complaining customer tells at least 16 others who in turn share the information with their friends?  Did you know that most customers are connected to some form of social media and that in an instant, a problem that affected one customer, could easily and instantly be shared with thousands of people – customers and potential customers alike?  Social Media forums like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp Groups, Tumblr etc., have mass audiences with friends and friends of friends having immediate knowledge of poor customer service at your establishment.

Experts say that it costs 5 to 10 times more time, effort and money to find new customers than it costs to retain current customers.  With this in mind, it is imperative for employees to handle the complaining/difficult customer.  When a customer complains, he/she is actually giving you an opportunity to fix the situation – a gift you might term it.  That is a huge opportunity to RECOVER the customer as there are other customers who won’t give you this chance – they just simply won’t do business with you again.

To RECOVER the complaining/difficult customer, employees should:

  • Actively listen to the complaint – A customer knows when you are being patronizing. Give the customer your full attention and write notes to ensure you capture the full complaint. Ask questions to get the relevant information. Allowing the customer to vent, helps to diffuse the anger. People want to be heard. When the customer is done be sure to repeat what you heard him/her share so that you both agree on what the problem is.
  • Apologize to the customer – A sincere apology goes a long way. Make eye contact with the customer and offer an apology that recognizes the customer’s issues and the inconveniences the customer may have experienced. It doesn’t matter who caused the problem.  Avoid the blame game.
  • Accept responsibility – It’s not an admission that you did wrong but rather an acknowledgement that the customer’s expectations or needs were not met. Do not pass the customer around from department to department. That actually creates more issues. Even if the problem occurred in another department, own the issue and work with the responsible parties to provide a resolution for the customer.
  • Assure – Guarantee the customer that his/her complaint will be addressed and if it cannot be resolved in the moment, assure the customer that you will contact him/her with an update. Go a step further and provide a timeline in which the customer could expect to hear from you. Make sure you honor your commitment. If it takes longer than expected to resolve the complaint communicate proactively with the customer and provide updates.
  • Act – Resolve the complaint. Figure out what went wrong in the process and work to correct it thereby ensuring other customers are not negatively impacted.

Handling a complaining/difficult customer is a skill every employee needs.  Don’t make the mistake of mishandling this type of customer. According to Bill Gates, your most unhappy customer is your greatest source of learning.  If this is the case, don’t throw away the gift this customer provides.



Duquesa D. Dean


Duquesa D. Dean is a Certified Trainer, Speaker and a Transformation Coach.  She is an Associate Trainer with the International Board of Certified Trainers and has over 20 years experience in the customer service field.  She coaches organizations large and small to lift their service levels and offers a unique style of customer service training.  To book Duquesa email or visit her website at

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