Answer to “How Would You Deal an Unhappy Customer?”


Some hiring managers ask behavioral job interview questions to test and analyze your reasoning abilities, problem-solving skills and decision-making strategies. When asked how you might handle an unhappy customer or a dissatisfied client, you must provide a well-constructed, thoughtful answer. The interviewer will also take your interpersonal skills into consideration, so avoid a harsh, cynical or apathetic response. The more you showcase your strong leadership skills, communication strengths and attentiveness to customer complaints, the better off you’ll be.

Answer the Question Directly

Even if you’re not 100 percent sure how you’d handle every situation with unhappy customers, offer specific pin-pointed answers to satisfy the interviewer. Take five to 15 seconds to think through your response and answer using words similar to those the interviewer used to ask the question. Consider starting your answer with the sentence, “Customers deserve respect, so I’d handle an unhappy customer by listening attentively to her concerns.” Don’t launch out on your own tangents, even if you feel that you have important details to add to the interview. Stay focused and answer the question directly.

Stay Positive

Even if a customer is in the wrong, a hiring manager doesn’t want to listen to a tirade about unrealistic customer expectations or unruly demands. The goal is to take a positive approach when answering the question. The interviewer wants assurance that you’ll keep a level head even if a customer is rude, arrogant and demanding. According to the University of Virginia, a reply such as, “I always monitor customer feedback to ensure I’m not missing opportunities to make valuable adjustments and improve customer satisfaction,” shows your willingness to reach out to customers. Incorporate positive buzz words such as compassionate, understanding, troubleshooting, accommodating, problem-solving and reconciliation into your answer. You might not handle an unhappy customer the way the interviewer would, but a positive outlook will help you come across as a polite and amicable job applicant.

Explore Solutions

Choose a specific example or scenario and explore one or two possible solutions. If you had to deal with an unhappy customer at your previous employment, use that experience to explain strategies that worked to appease him. You might say, “When a dissatisfied customer complained about the quality of one of our products, I offered to provide a replacement free of cost.” Or, “An unhappy customer wanted me to conduct more tax research, so I offered to spend the weekend reading new IRS publications.” Cite specific examples and look for creative ways to answer this type of behavioral interview question. According to career expert Shweta Khare’s comments in “Forbes” magazine, having a repository of work experience stories written down before an interview makes it easier to recall specific examples when you need them.

Stand Your Ground

Don’t give the hiring manager the impression that you’re a weak push-over. Dealing with customer complaints doesn’t mean you belittle the company, degrade your products or services or bend over backwards to accommodate unrealistic customer expectations. Assure the interviewer that you’d carefully examine all the details and provide excellent customer service, without compromising the integrity of the company. The old saying, “The customer is always right,” has its limitations. Explain that you’d cautiously document the customer’s concerns and get their contact information but wouldn’t make rash decisions just to satisfy unruly demands. It’s completely acceptable to admit to the hiring manager that some unhappy customers are never satisfied. Say you’d try your best, but wouldn’t fall apart if the outcome wasn’t ideal. A hiring manager will appreciate you emotional stability and consistency as you handle a difficult customer situation that might otherwise escalate.


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