Every company that prides itself on great customer service will have an occasional oops – an unfortunate situation that you’d like to take back and do over again.  As we tell our sales training clients in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, the key is recognizing the opportunity to erase a bad customer experience with great service by solving the problem.  Let that be the story people talk, tweet, and blog about.  Here’s how to do it.


I have found this five step procedure in solving customer challenges very effective.  I teach it extensively  to all of my sales training clients in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in Western Canada.  It knows no geographical boundaries and is simple to learn and use for inside and outside Sales and Customer Service people.


Step #1 – Shut Up, Listen and Wait

You are dealing with a disappointed customer that is probably upset.  The last thing they want to hear is the sound of your voice right now.  It’s their desire to voice their opinion and frustration.  It’s your job to actively listen.  Do not interrupt them.  Do not offer any explanations.  They don’t want to hear them right now.

They want and need the opportunity to vent.  Give them reassurance that you are actively listening.  In person, that consists of a look of patient concern for their situation with the occasional nod of your head.  On the phone, do the same with verbal recognition.  The two words I Understand have amazing power in this process.  If they are doing this in public, attempt to get them to an area where you can allow them to let go of their emotions without customers around.

Eventually, the disgruntled customer will stop.  They will realize that you are not offering any challenge or willingness to dispute them.  They will probably become much more calm and may even be somewhat surprised.  They are now finished talking and ready to allow you the privilege to address their concerns.  They may even ask you a question, clearly giving you a signal that it’s time for you to talk.

Within reason, make sure you allow them the chance to fully vent.  Let them have the stage and get it all out.  If you don’t, you will find that their emotions may come back again just when you are working on a solution to solve the problem.  Time for Step #2.

Step #2 – Paraphrase what you Heard and Felt

The masters of conflict resolution are experts at this.  I have found that it always has its desired effect.  You are now repeating back to the customer why they are upset and how they feel.  No angry customer expects this.  They expect a fight from you.  They get it everywhere else when having a bad buying experience.  Why would dealing with you be any different?

Paraphrasing involves you stating not just the facts of their issue.  You want to include the feelings of the customer.  It shows you are actively listening and get it.  This will be what I call taking away their fight for all the good reasons.

You will know you are doing a great job, when they stop arguing and become calm and willing to listen.  Why?  They realize that you care.  They now have disassociated you from the problem, even though you are the representative of the company they are angry with.  That fact is amazing in itself.

Don’t think that you are not being a great ambassador of your company.  Appreciating their perspective doesn’t mean you agree with it.  They may be unreasonable.  That’s OK.  You just want to get the message to them that you understand that they are upset.

After paraphrasing their concerns, ask them this question:

Am I on the right track?  Have I left anything out?

Wait for the No.  They may have the look of So, what you are going to do about it?  They are now ready for interaction.


Step #3 – Offer a Deserved Explanation, not an Excuse

Here’s your next message to them…

I think you deserve an explanation for what happened.  I’m really going to try to ensure that this doesn’t sound like an excuse to you.  I know you’re unhappy.  I just want you to know why this happened.

As you give them the real explanation, consider their emotions and watch for a rebuttal.  Take their argument away by saying…

I know what you’re thinking…how is that my problem?  Right?  It’s not.  It’s an explanation of what happened.

Watch for the nod.  You just turned their desire to argue with you into agreement.  Man, you’re good.  You could defuse bombs for a living.  Now, let’s move ahead.


Step #4 – Move Together Toward a Solution

Your next response…

Can we work together to solve this issue?  Wait for a Yes or some sign of acceptance.

You should now have a very clear picture of what the issue is, why the customer is upset and be able to work together to solve the problem and turn this bad customer experience into a good one.  One final step.  Please don’t miss it.


Step #5 – Ask for Closure

It’s so easy.  It gives you the opportunity to see the results of your patience and hard work.  Ask this question…

Do you feel we managed to solve the problem today?  Wait for the answer.

Is there anything that is still unresolved?  Wait for the answer.


Your Unhappy Customer becomes your Salesperson

This final closure step also has the amazing ability to turn this customer into a powerful advocate.  They might now be one the your most influential salespeople on the street, sending you referrals by telling people their story of dealing with you.Pro Sales Guy

It’s not what happens in business that creates the final customer experience, it’s how you deal with what’s happened that makes the difference!

If you’re looking for personalized sales and customer service training, please email us at dave@prosalesguy.ca.





Pro Sales Guy

PROSALESGUY TRAINING offers Group and Individual Sales Training, Sales Management Mentoring and Consultation,  and Business Consulting Services in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.  Training can be done on site or via web conferencing and is always customized to your specific needs.