How to Win Back Frustrated and Unhappy Customers

No matter how great your products or services, some of your customers are bound to run into problems. That’s an unavoidable truth of business — but you can avoid losing customers because of those issues. It just requires a little extra effort on the part of your customer service team.

Interactions with your support team can make all the difference in how your unhappy customers behave. A negative interaction could lead them to write off your company forever, while a positive one could convert them into a loyal customer for life.

Why Winning Customers Back Matters

You can’t please everyone.

For some consumers, your business simply might not be the right fit. And that’s okay! But it doesn’t mean you should forget about customers who raise complaints and contact you with problems. After all, customer retention is absolutely essential for success in any industry. No matter how many new leads and sales you generate, you can’t achieve sustainable growth if you’re constantly losing customers.

And customer service plays a significant role in retention. In fact, one survey found that 66% of consumers who switched brands did so because of poor service. This means that if you’re not providing excellent service, you could be losing customers — even if those customers are otherwise satisfied with your products.

On the upside, the same study determined that 67% of customer churn is preventable by resolving issues during the first engagement. So if you’re struggling with retention, it’s time to step up your customer support.

10 Tips to Help You Win Back Unhappy Customers

Providing great customer support is essential for winning back unhappy customers — and the following 10 tips will help you adjust your approach to accomplish this goal.

1. Exercise Empathy

For busy support teams, it can be tempting to jump to a solution as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, this sometimes means rushing the customer through an explanation of their problem. And while this may be the fastest way to understand what’s going on, it’s not the most effective.

That’s because empathy is essential for understanding your customers. So at the start of every interaction, practice active listening and aim to fully understand the customer’s point of view before offering a solution.

Then, focus on helping meet their needs — and make it a priority over merely offering the right answer.

2. Tailor Your Approach to Each Customer

Each of your customers is different.

And though many of their problems may be largely the same, the best approach to solving them can vary. This means you should avoid using canned, templated responses. Even if the solution itself is relatively straightforward, you need to make sure that the customer feels understood and acknowledged.

Taking an extra 30 seconds or so to address them by name and write a unique response can go a long way in achieving this goal, and improve the customer’s overall experience with your brand.

3. Apologize For Your Mistakes

Many of your customers will reach out with a simple question or because they want clarification on a feature or policy. Others will contact you because your company made an error. And in this case, it’s essential to admit that error and offer a genuine apology.

Whether there was a shipping error in your warehouse, misinformation on your site, or something else entirely, acknowledging the mistake is an essential first step. Then, reassure them that you’ll take appropriate steps to fix the error. This way, they can be confident in continuing to purchase or work with your company in the future.

4. Be Proactive

In some cases, you may not be sure if a customer’s issue was fully and finally resolved during an interaction. But you shouldn’t wait for them to reach out and let you know that the problem still hasn’t been solved.

Instead, take a proactive approach and follow up with each of these customers. One of the best ways to do this is with a simple email.

“Hi John,

Hope you’re doing well.

Please let me know if X troubles you again. I’d be glad to jump on a call and help you sort it out.

If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to help. Have a fantastic day!


This shows the customer that you care about their success — and that you didn’t forget about them as soon as your interaction ended.

5. Offer Clear Explanations

When a customer alerts you to a problem, your primary goal will likely be to solve it in a minimal amount of time.

And that’s great!

But you should also aim to offer a clear explanation of why that problem occurred. This step often only takes a few extra seconds but can help the customer better understand what went wrong and eliminate any concerns about whether it will be a recurring issue.

6. Make Sure Your Customer is Satisfied

Once you’ve solved a customer’s immediate issue, you might assume that your job is done.

But it’s not always safe to assume that fixing the problem at hand is enough. Instead, make sure to always ask each customer whether they’re satisfied with the resolution you’ve provided.

This way, you can address any additional concerns they might have — then be confident that you’ve provided the level of service they were looking for.

7. Go the Extra Mile

Sometimes, all a customer is looking for is a quick, straightforward response. In these cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to resolve their request within a matter of minutes and move on.

But in other cases, you’ll see the opportunity to go the extra mile — and taking advantage of that opportunity can go a long way. For example, when this customer lost his Warby Parker sunglasses, he reached out to the NYC restaurant where he’d last seen them on Twitter.

And although the restaurant was unable to help, Warby Parker responded by asking the customer to contact them.

Customer Story
The company was not at all responsible for this mistake. But a few days later, the customer posted another tweet showing that Warby Parker had sent a free replacement pair, along with candy and a handwritten note.

Though they had no obligation to help, Warby Parker went the extra mile — and likely earned a loyal customer for life.

8. Trust Your Team’s Judgment

Strong customer service requires building a great support team. And as you build yours, it’s essential to trust their judgment in their interactions with customers.

Though you may have standard processes and procedures for handling specific types of problems, it’s important not to restrict your team to cookie-cutter approaches. After all, a one-size-fits-all process doesn’t allow for much empathy, and it certainly doesn’t enable your team to go the extra mile.

Build a team you can trust, and you’ll be much more effective in delivering the kind of support your customers will rave about.

9. Listen on Social Media Channels

Not all of your customers will immediately reach out when they have an issue. Unfortunately, many of them will first take to social media channels to share their complaints with friends and families.

That’s why today, social listening is an increasingly common customer service strategy. For example, J.Crew has a dedicated support Twitter account and uses it to respond to customers on the platform.

J Crew customer story
The majority of the responses from this account apologize for the customer’s dissatisfaction and encourage them to reach out with more information. Even this simple gesture shows customers that the company cares about their experience, and can open up a conversation that will help the brand address their customers’ unhappiness.

10. Remember That Your Customers Are People

Finally, it’s essential to keep in mind throughout all of your interactions that your customers are people. Now, this might sound obvious. But when a customer writes a negative review or complains about an issue, it’s easy to see them as a problem to be resolved instead of a person to be helped. And that mindset is unlikely to help you provide excellent support.

So every time a customer reaches out, remember that they’re a real person with a real problem, and do your best to fully resolve their issue. This will not only make your interactions go more smoothly, but will also make you more effective in providing genuinely helpful solutions — and, as a result, winning back unhappy customers.

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