If there is one universal truth to business, regardless of what industry you are in, your experience, the size of your business, or what you offer, we will all, and I mean all experience at least one unhappy customer. 

But, yes here comes the encouragement amidst the truth, how we respond to each and every unhappy customer is what distinguishes us from the rest of the business world. 

Right now with all of the uncertainty, there are a lot more unhappy people in the world, due to many factors. One being, a lot more anxiety to feed into our thoughts, a lot more price sensitivity, and as business owners are really seeing a spike in this.

With that, I am going to walk you through five steps that will give you permission and insight into how you can respond to your next, or current unhappy customer.

As you apply these, keep in mind that it can be simple when you tap into the heart of the unhappy customer. 

1. Make your customer feel heard.

Oftentimes our natural reaction is to down-play their experience and make it sound better than what our unhappy customers experienced. At the end of the day, they want to feel heard by your business. They want to know that there is a process of oversight that them speaking up will make a difference. I find that actually relating to them on this level, is the quickest way to diffuse the bomb. 

2. Create a playbook to accommodate customers in a way that makes them feel important and appreciated but is strategic for your bottom line. 

Make the next step a ritual, to take the guesswork out what’s offered to an unhappy customer. Making decisions in the heat of the moment will likely cost you more than when you are thinking about this strategically. Take a step back before you have an unhappy customer and decide what path is going to be. While you may not have a refund policy in general, you might have some way that you can make it up to a customer who has had a bad experience. 

3. Sometimes people just want to be happy and that is okay! Release yourself from the thought that you can make everyone happy. That is a no-win standard.

4. Don’t feel held hostage to negative reviews. 

Flag reviews that violate the content standards of that platform. You can find the platform’s content standards by googling the platform and their review content standards, where you will be able to see what they can and cannot do, along with what they can include in their review. This way, when you flag a review on the particular platform, for their oversight, they will actually be able to look at your comments, make a determination that much sooner, and pull the review down if it does not align with their content standards. When in doubt, write a lovingly-honest response to the person who wrote the review. If not for your unhappy customer, but for another potential customer that might be reading their review, and seeing how you respond to negative situations. 

5. Seize the opportunity for improvement, consider why the situation occurred, and see if you can create a process to prevent it. 

Including creating steps to communicate before an unhappy customer “sneaks up” on you. Sometimes that can be as simple as adding reminders to the customer during the onboarding courses. 

At the end of the day, make sure that you are doing everything you can to protect the liability and reputation of your business. We are human, mistakes happen and we are to give ourselves grace, but ensure that your customers are heard. Take their comments and breathe them back into improvements in your business so you can make it better for everyone to come!  


I mentioned my friend Lindsay Schwartz. She is the founder of Powerhouse Women and it has made such a difference in my business since I attended their annual event in 2019.