How to Quell Disgruntled Users (and Turn Them into Customers)

April 26, 2019

Unfortunately these mistakes, when in the context of business, can do quite a lot of harm to the brand image especially considering that people are more likely to take to social media to complain than to praise an experience.

Business mistakes you’re likely to run into over the years may include:

  • Shipping the wrong product to an individual
  • Invoicing a person twice
  • Forgetting user details (and thus alienating the relationship)
  • Failing to offer a promised product on time
  • Launching a product/service with bugs (and failing to update on schedule)

The margin of error is extremely tight so then what do you do when you have a disgruntled user?

Pace yourself

The post “A Lesson in Social Media Training: Complaint vs. Compliment – Domino’s Pizza Can’t Tell The Difference” sets a great example when PR and social teams rush a response when a customer speaks up about the brand. In this post a customer of Domino’s praises the company for their pizza yet the social response was canned (apologizing and asking for feedback); it totally missed the mark.

As it concludes in this post the take-away should resonate with this particular element of satisfying those disgruntled users:

“The lesson learned from this example is just how important it is to treat each customer as unique and to dedicate resources to offering an individualised service on the channels customers prefer. Fast reactions are important on social, but taking a few moments to get it right can save you bad press.”

People are quick to make judgements and turn to social media as an outlet. In this case it was praise, but imagine if the message was turned and it was a complaint (and responded by the opposite)?

It’s important to hop on negative feedback as soon as you can for damage control, but it’s equally important that you pace yourself so that you can send the right message to this individual to avoid further aggravation and to drive them toward a positive experience.

Own up (and do it with transparency)

Business has its blunders and it seems like every day someone is taking offense to some ad campaign, product/service experience, or they just may be down-right grumpy and need an outlet which happens to be your business for the day.

When you’re dealing with an unhappy person it’s best to do so in a public manner for a number of reasons:

  • The fault may be on the customer and you can point out the issue as this helps you save face and may educate the person – which could get them to turn around their stance on the topic because they notice they are in the wrong.
  • You are publicly showing that your business cares about what its customers have to say and by taking care of this one individual, it conveys the same level of commitment that will be for all others that happen to read the rapport.
  • Public customer service can also help your business (and industry) as a whole because it sets a great example on how to react and manage these incidents; if others in the business can see how it’s conducted and it sets this prime example, then there will be less overall problems with the industry which, in turn, will lead to greater experiences all around.

At the end of the day, though, it’s easier to just to own up to any mistakes, apologize (publicly), and take actions so that it won’t happen again (even if they weren’t in your control). The disgruntled individual will (hopefully) feel like you are moving in the right direction and give you a second chance for redemption; it’s at this time you ensure you do it right so that it wipes the memory of the prior bad experience.

Offer a better experience

Right away you have to think that you have lost this customer forever, but in a way this is a good thing because it wipes the slate clean and presents a challenge for your business. Once you have taken care of this issue in a public manner through social media (or direct contact), you may restart the courting process of regaining this individual as a customer.

There are plenty of ways to bring them back into the fold:

  • Offer free returns on the product and ship them a brand new one
  • Upgrade their service or give them a free month
  • Encourage them to become part of feedback and quality control (give them responsibilities)

You don’t have to jump through all the hoops to get this individual back into the customer base, but you do need to give them a bit of special treatment. The special treatment is fine but try not to push it too far else you could end up with a very picky, hard-to-work-with individual that becomes a burden. Simply deliver them a better experience on the next round and hope for the best.

Stand your ground

It’s your business and your products/services.

There are always times when people just don’t “get it” and when they run into a problem they immediately go into melt-down. Sure, there may have been issues that have led to this through miscommunication but you know what you’re selling and you should stand by your product.

Don’t be a push over. Stand your ground.

Some of these disgruntled individuals may be trolling, looking for a ruse, or feel challenged by the product/service because it breaks their concept of reality (traditional vs. progressive kind of thing). Standing your ground, laying out the facts, and using your expertise to explain the situation and deal with the problem is sometimes what it takes.

This point may not actually bring these people back as customers, but it will certainly quell the situation and lead to better opportunities. When you stand strong behind your business, you attract people that look for that commitment – so for one lost customer, you may have gained a dozen.


You need customers to do business (obviously). You need to do everything you can to deliver them an exceptional experience (obviously). There will always be those individuals that will be disgruntled (obviously). What may not be so obvious is how easily you can handle these individuals when you pace yourself, respond to them in a public forum, and show your expertise.

The fault of the service can land on either side (business or customer). Reacting appropriately to fix these issues and satisfying the individual will not only help with damage control (that social spread), but has the possibility to bring them back into the customer base because they will forgive and forget.

Embed this into your business culture and these types of problems should be few and far between. You offer a great product and great experience; you just need to know how to handle it when something goes awry with those particular individuals.

How do you handle disgruntled users in your business?

Image by Geralt

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