An irate customer…. a great opportunity

Irate customers….It happens with every product, irrespective of how long the product has been in the market or the number of customers you have. Products sometime just doesnt work the way they are intended to and someone who has paid to buy it is not happy. In some cases, the issue is not even with the product – the customer screwed up or tried to use it in a manner that it was not intended to be used.

But as product owners, you and your team can actually turn this into a great opportunity. You can convert him to become a happier customer than he would have been if he had not had this problem in the first place.

Here are some of the things that we did which seemed to help in converting him into a strong advocate. While large business may find these hard to follow due to the sheer scale of operations, small and even medium businesses should benefit from these recommendations.

1. Take it head on – Respond immediately – with an email or a call. Definitely call if you have a contact number. Between his reporting this issue and getting a response, hes unable to use a product that he has paid for and thats bad news – for you. The immediate response just tells the customer that you are willing to stand behind your product and that help is on its way. Its an assurance and a strong message. As I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts, this immediate response is relevant even if you dont have a solution ready yet. Call and tell him that you will look into it and provide a solution as soon as you can. Even go ahead and provide the name and contact number of the support personnel who will be responsible for solving this issue. Automatic email response doesnt replace this. Auto response tells him that he support request has been “received”. The personal response that Im talking about tells him that someone is “looking into it”. There is a big difference.

2. Dont shift the blame – The response call is a bad time to tell him that it was HIS mistake that the product is not working, even if it is. Dont ask him if he read the documentation (not many people do… and again its a bad time to ask this). You may remind him about the documentation AFTER solving his issue
(for future reference), but not now – when he’s still irate. “No one else has reported this issue” again is a bad thing to say. Direct statements like, “We screwed up” or “Sorry, it is our mistake” convey a clear message that you are willing to own up and are committed to resolving the issue.

3. Follow it up to closure – If the issue is going to take a few days or weeks to fix, keep the customer updated on the progress. Having a product that isnt working is bad… but his not having a clue on when it will be fixed is unacceptable – and a sure way to drive customers away. Ensure that the customer has a single point of contact to get updates from. Even after the issue is resolved, ask for confirmation if you can actually close the issue ticket. The customer raised the issue and he has to sign off to close it.

4. Call back to check – Evolve your own schedule to call back customers after the issue has been resolved to check if they were happy with solution and more importantly the way your overall support system responded to him. Ask if he has been able to use the product as intended since. By now, you have a general sense whether the customer is really willing to put the whole thing behind and whether your support process works.

“How many ‏irate customers are being converted into strong advocates” is a great way you measure the effectiveness of your customer support process. Strong advocates talk to their friends positively about your product, give you inputs to improve your product, are willing to be reference customers or even sign up say nice things in your press release. Start building your pipeline of Strong Advocates…. and Irate Customers are a great place to start that with.


– NWritings

5 Replies to “An irate customer…. a great opportunity”

  1. Agree with all of it, though I’m not sure if done right irate will necessarily turn advocate. I think you have a done a good job if you don’t hear back from the customer ever again. In this area, no news is definitely good news!!

  2. swamysk:
    This is not a fail-proof approach which delivers expected results every time and there will always be customers who just “disappear” or worse, turn more irate 🙂
    What I have outlined help you turn a potentially unpleasant situation into your favor. “How many ‏irate customers are being converted into strong advocates” is a great metric for you to keep a tab on if you are leading a customer support team.


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