Reprinted from Planting Seeds, Volume 3, Issue 3, with permission of the ISA.

You are at a jobsite and there’s a mistake. Your client is not pleased with the outcome and is sharing that dissatisfaction with you. However, don’t think you have a lost cause on your hands. How you respond can win back their trust and respect.

“The important thing to realize when dealing with an upset customer is that you must deal with their feelings, then deal with their problem,” says Motivational Expert Alan Fairweather. “Upset customers are liable to have strong feelings when you, your product or service lets them down and they’ll probably want to “dump” these feeling on you.”

Fairweather says angry clients will judge you based on how you react to their emotions. When dealing with unhappy customers, it’s critical to defuse the situation. If you show customers you care, they are more likely to forgive the error. Here are some guidelines to get you back in their good graces:

1. Don’t let their emotions get to you – When people are upset, they may say things that seem hurtful or personal. Try to act in a non-defensive manner.

2. Listen – Make eye contact with them and truly listen to their complaint. They want to believe you are hearing what they have to say.

3. An apology is not enough – Don’t repeatedly use the word ‘sorry.’ It is often over-used. If you do apologize, use their name and offer it in a sentence: “I am sorry, Mrs. Jones, for the mishap, but we will do everything in our power to correct the situation so that you are happy.”

4. Show empathy – You don’t have to agree with their anger, but make a genuine effort to show them you understand how they feel. A customer will be able to recognize if you are insincere.

5. Build rapport – Put yourself in their situation and tell them about it: “I can understand your anger, Mrs. Jones. I wouldn’t like it if this happened to me.”

The most important factor is to take action in defusing the situation. If you show your customers you care, they are more likely to accept you and forgive the error.