How To Handle An Unhappy Client

I’m not sure how you handle complaints but I have longed believed that an angry client is an opportunity. Read on to find out why…

My first sales mentor rubbed his hands in glee when we had a problem with one of our clients. He would say “Any fool can do it when it’s going well but only a real star can do it when it’s not” and he was right.

Obviously we don’t want you intentionally upsetting clients but when problems occur, and they always will, why not use it to your advantage. Perhaps even strengthen the relationship in the end?

Some takeaways to help get your team, thinking differently about how to handle a complaint from a client so you come out stronger and closer to them.

1. How it should be done

Stories are powerful tools for learning.

So before we begin here’s one that perfectly shows what it is to really look after a customer when things go wrong.

2. First Response

Now we know what good looks like, lets break it down.

First, “Attitude is Everything” and we cannot emphasise it enough: something good done grudgingly just makes your client feel worse.

Your first response should be offering assistance as pleasantly and genuinely as you can.

It may not be your fault, it may truly be something utterly beyond your control and you’ll have to go back with bad news but they will remember how you responded. What is more, they’ll feel confident that you would do the same if there was ever another problem.

And if it is your fault? Then you’ve avoided making it worse,  inspired some confidence you’ve got it in hand and maybe even created a personal connection.

Next is your response.

3. Make it Better

We’ve put together a little workbook, available in the download section of this article, on what you should do with an incident. It’s yours to download, customise and tweak as you wish.

We really recommend you do make it your own because the way you resolve incidents should be ingrained in everyone in your team.

The highlights:

  1. If it’s major then get on site. If it isn’t then get on the phone. Email is not an option
  2. Apologise.
  3. Really understand the problem, don’t assume you get it straight away.
  4. Never blame, even if it’s not your fault.
  5. Fix the problem
  6. Can you go beyond? Client satisfaction outranks profit.
  7. After everything is resolved, review and agree how to prevent it happening again

4. Show that you care

Once the dust is settled, there’s a final pitfall to avoid.


Think of your friends, if you screwed up something of theirs and then put it right would that be the end of the matter? undoubtedly not.

Take the time to show you care, offer to buy some drinks, take someone out for a coffee or just pop over and apologise in person. Give your team your team the time and opportunity if you can’t do it.

Because it’s the human connections between you and your client that protect the relationship, and they only exist if you treat them like people.