A former boss once told me, “The customer is always right, except when they’re wrong. But even when they’re wrong, you’ve gotta make them feel right.”

That adequately describes the delicate balancing act that is Customer Service. Customer Service Reps worldwide will tell you that few clients reach out to thank a company for doing a wonderful job. Usually, when the phone rings or the email alert chimes, it is a customer with an issue. Sometimes it is your fault. Sometimes it is theirs. But finding fault should not be your priority. The key to handling a disappointed client is making them feel comfortable, taken care of, and more sure than ever that you are the right company for them. Here are five ways to make that happen.

1. Apologize

A simple, “I’m sorry to hear about this issue,” goes a long way with a client. Even if the issue is not your company’s fault, you have a client who is acknowledging a less-than-stellar experience and that, at the very least, deserves an apology. Keep your pride in check and put the client’s feelings first.

2. Sympathize

Have you ever had to contact customer service to file a complaint or resolve a situation? Of course you have. So you know how it feels to be on the other end of that correspondence. Tap into that. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. You may deal with complaints and issues all day but for your client, this is the single most pressing thing on their mind right now. That mind can be put at ease with a reassuring, “I understand that this issue can be stressful. But I am here to help.”

3. Let them talk

It is likely that your client has already practiced what they want to say to you in regard to their problem. In fact, talking openly about the problem can prove to be quite therapeutic and bring a bit of relief to even the most troubled customer. Open the door for them to speak freely with a simple statement like, “I want to make sure that we get this taken care of. Could you please tell me more about your issue?”

4. Listen

If your job involves interacting with clients all day, it can be tempting to tune out at times. But each customer needs to feel that they are special and that your company is looking out for them. Be a good listener. If the conversation is in person or on the phone, take notes. If you are communicating via email or chat, pay attention during the discourse and re-read the conversation with a goal of quickly and effectively addressing the client’s needs. When replying, quote the key points that the client brought out so that they know they are being heard.

5. Promise a solution

Whether you can solve the problem instantly or not, be sure that your client knows that your mission is to make sure that they end up happy, despite the issue. If you need more time to further work on a solution, offer a note of assurance, such as, “I have all the details I need at this time. I’m going to work with our team to provide you with a solution. You’ll be hearing from me soon. If anything comes up in the meantime, here is my contact information.”

At our company, we have to deal with disappointed clients from time to time. We’ve found that applying the above points has greatly aided in customer retention and satisfaction. Problems are never ideal, but handling them properly can lead to a stronger sense of brand loyalty and repeat business.

This post was originally published on the award-winning Desk.com blog.

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