Service Session: Turn that Frown Upside Down!

UASA president Corrine Caruoso and past president Dean Landers of Landers Appliance apply the Golden Rule to contentious customers.

By Rich Lindblom

The Summit service seminar “Successfully Dealing with Angry Customers and Turning Them into Your Biggest Fans,” presented by BrandSource partner United Appliance Services Association (UASA), was like a master class in how to contend with unhappy shoppers. If you didn’t get a chance to see it yet, I would strongly encourage you and every one of your employees to pull it up and watch it as soon as possible, because it is packed with valuable information. 

The presentation, hosted by UASA president Corrine Caruso and past president Dean Landers of Landers Appliance, will provide you with a variety of strategies for dealing with unhappy customers, many of which are the exact same strategies that I employed for over forty years in my own business.  In fact, I’ve penned a couple of different stories for YSN (look for them here soon) that touch on many of the same strategies that they do. The difference is that while mine are more like a 10,000-foot overview due to space constraints, Corrine and Dean got to spend a full 33 minutes with you, diving into much greater detail — the nuts and bolts of great customer service, if you will. 

Very early on they talked about using complaints as a tool to help you identify areas in your company that are in need of improvement, which is actually is a brilliant concept: using complaints to your benefit.  When a customer complains it actually highlights something that may need to be addressed in either your employee training procedures or perhaps actual company policies. The world in which we do business today is constantly changing and evolving, which means you need to be willing to do the same. Never be afraid to change a bad policy or to retrain an employee, because it will likely save you money and headaches in the long run.

One of the best parts of the presentation was Dean’s four-point plan for dealing with unhappy customers. Personally, I believe every single BrandSource member should make his plan a part of their employee training program. While on that same topic, Corrine talks at great length about smiling, and being aware of both your tone and body language, which ties right in with a piece I wrote for YSN back in January (see “I Can Hear Your Smile”).

Some of the other key takeaways for me were:

  • Truly listen to the customer and take the time to understand what their issue is.
  • Don’t ever interrupt them when they speak; let them get it all out, sometimes that’s all it takes.
  • Ask questions, get all of the information, and take detailed notes.
  • Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are taking notes — it tells them you care.
  • Be empathic towards them and truly understanding of their situation.
  • Don’t get defensive, and whatever you do, don’t argue with a customer. Ever.
  • Keep the conversation positive and avoid using any negative words like no, can’t and don’t.
  • Apologize sincerely and let them know you will work toward a solution.
  • Don’t tell the customer that you are unable do something.
  • Don’t tell the customer what to do. Instead, politely ask or suggest courses of action.
  • Follow up on your promises and don’t let the customer down a second time.

Another piece of advice that I would add to their list would be to actually ask the customer what they want. Sometimes a customer wants far less than you might think.

But for me, the single most important point of Corrine and Dean’s entire presentation, which is something that I believe every single BrandSource member needs to take to heart, is that if you take care of an upset customer properly, you will very likely win that customer for life. In fact, research shows that a staggering 95 percent of unhappy customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaint quickly! 

Let that number sink in for a minute, and then go watch their presentation with your entire team.

UASA’s complete presentation, “Successfully Dealing with Angry Customers and Turning Them into Your Biggest Fans,” is available on demand on the Summit platform.

Rich Lindblom is a former principal of Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center in Schaumburg, Ill., and member of the Maytag Leadership Council. He recently sold the 65-year-old family business and retired after four decades in independent retail. Got something on your mind? You can reach Rich at

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