negative customer

It happens to even the best of us. Sooner or later, a customer will likely have a negative experience at a business.

It’s not always due to something the business or manager did wrong; sometimes there are misunderstandings or miscommunications. However, each negative experience should be treated with respect and care, regardless of the “fault”.

The adage says the customer is always right. While this by no means gives customers full clearance to rage at an employee for a simple mistake, the underlying philosophy of respect still rings true.

So what is the best way to handle negative experiences or poor reviews? From the view of the manager or individual in charge of handling complaints, it can be tedious to address, and it can often come at the expense of a bit of pride. But with any business comes some unpleasant tasks — this is one of them.

Handle Each Case Individually

With any hope, the occurrence of negative customer experience or a complaint is rare. However, if there are ever multiple complaints, deal with them individually. Don’t expect to just provide a generic, cut and pasted response and expect the customer to be satisfied.

For example, let’s say a customer sends a strongly worded email to a business that provides health supplements. The customer says they are unhappy with the results of using the supplements — usually not the fault of the business. It can be easy to roll your eyes and type out a curt response outlining the expectations that customers should have about supplements and their results. But this isn’t the right solution.

Instead, try to find a way to offer a solution to the customer. Yes, they should have realistic expectations about results, but perhaps there is a way to still convey empathy. Perhaps they can have a small discount on their next purchase, they can swap out the supplement for something else, or they can have their money back. Of course, these options are all within reason and are at the discretion of the business.

But it’s important to remember here that word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. One customer’s negative experience may turn into a loss of business if they tell enough people to stay away. So take the time to respond kindly, with empathy, and offer a solution. This effort will go a long way, even if the customer is not 100 percent happy at first.

Tone Matters

In any and all correspondence with customers, always make every effort to maintain a friendly tone. Believe it or not, digital correspondence can be incredibly easy to misinterpret tone.

Take the following sentences as examples. If you were the customer in this situation, which would make you feel more positive?

“Hi, John. We don’t offer refunds of any kind. Thanks.”

“Hi, John! Unfortunately, we don’t offer refunds on these products. This policy is outlined in our receipt. We can, however, offer you a replacement at no cost if you’d like to stop by and swap the devices out. Thank you!”

While emails should be professional and avoid over-enthusiastic exclamation points, emojis and other effusive gestures, simply adding a touch of color to the email can go a long way. In addition, offering additional information, reasoning, or alternatives can also soothe ruffled feathers.

Of course, not every customer will be happy, and not every issue will be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. However, it’s still important to make every effort to turn a negative experience into a positive, even if it requires a bit of humility and responsibility from the business.

Ronn Torossian is a leading Public Relations Executive. Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR. 5W Public Relations is a NYC headquartered PR Agency.

Ronn Torossian


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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.