How to Effectively Turn Dissatisfied Customers into Brand Advocates

The Era of Customer Expectations

By Jamie Yan, Product Marketing Manager, Question Pro CX

In today’s landscape, customers have more shopping power than ever. Consumers have higher expectations, are more digitally connected and have a plethora of choices. With the onset of social media and the digitally connected space, we have passed the beginning of the customer-centric stage and are currently in the era where customer service can be your biggest competitive advantage.

With the internet and social media lending its platform worldwide, it is now even more critical for companies to have strategies in place to serve your customer. Word of mouth, either negative or positive is amplified through social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, and can easily tarnish a reputation within 24 hours that a company took 10 years to build. Take Yelp for example. Yelp is the perfect instance of a social platform created for consumers to share their customer experience. There has been a number of instances where one dissatisfied customer singlehandedly turns his or her negative experience into a publicity mess. Just google “viral Yelp reviews” and you will see how many businesses have been damaged by one angry customer.

The ideal situation is to catch dissatisfied customers  in the moment, and deal with negative feedback from customers by changing their state of mind, and over delivering on their expectations to mitigate negative word of mouth. But to try and catch them all is unrealistic.

Building a reputation for customer excellence should be your long-term objective, but what about solving the negative word-of-mouth that is critical to your business tomorrow? Every decision should be wired to surprise and delight your customer. First, get into a customer-centric mindset and follow the five strategic steps to turn dissatisfied customers into brand ambassadors.

5 strategic ways to deal with dissatisfied customers

  1. Be human. Listen and empathize with your angry customers

The key approach to dealing with dissatisfied customers is to make them feel heard. Understand the situation and accept that your natural reaction to anger is to be defensive. Once you have that context, your goal is to listen to your customer first before trying to solve their problem. Often times, an unhappy customer only cares about feeling understood. When you listen, you’re acknowledging the upset customer’s feelings and will eventually change his or her state of mind.

A great example of a company that listened to their customer’s negative feedback is Domino’s Pizza. The pizza chain was struggling as customers were complaining about pizza tasting like cardboard. Instead of turning a blind eye, (or worse) defending themselves, the company listened to customers and responded by modifying their recipe. Domino’s incorporated a customer-centric approach into their new strategy and has turned around the business and is now one of America’s top fast-food chains.


“You can either use negative comments to get you down or excite you and energize your process and make it a better pizza. We did the latter.” – J. Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino’s Pizza

  1. Catch and mitigate negative feedback immediately

If you’re in the service industry, you are most likely overwhelmed by all types of feedback. In the situation where you have a large volume of customer responses, prioritization is critical. Instead of responding to random cases, find a system that automates ticket prioritization for you by dissatisfaction level. In the NPS system (Net Promoter Score),  the level of dissatisfaction is quantifiable on a 0-10 scale. Detractors are typically in the 0-3 range. QuestionPro Customer Experience Management platform combines the detractor score, sentiment level and time to gauge the level of impact of the angry customer. The sooner you prioritize and respond to the detractors, the more likely you will reduce the risk of negative perception.

  1. Seize Opportunity for Improvement

When you are successful with listening and empathizing with the customer, seize this opportunity to extract insights, then work with them to ideate a solution in their favor. When an angry customer feels like they have influenced the outcome, you are much more likely to increase the chances of turning dissatisfied customers into your brand ambassadors.

All dissatisfied customers have the potential to become your company’s best marketing channel. Not only do they amplify their memorable experience with you to their networks, they are 70% likely to do business with you again.

  1. Do Everything in your Power to Delight your Unhappy Customer

In most cases, the unhappy customer has experienced some kind of inconvenience to contact you, whether it may be picking up a phone to make a call, logging into your social media account to write a post, or finding your email address to send a message. In return, you can make the biggest impact by going out of your way to deliver above their expectations, even if it the slightest. The goal is to change your customer’s perception about your brand. The customer won’t remember what was purchased, but they will remember how a company made them feel.

  1. Build a Reputation for Customer Service

Building a positive reputation is your long-term goal. You must approach dissatisfied customers with a customer-centric strategy. Remember, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. On the other hand, if you’re able to transform an unhappy customer into a delighted one, the delighted customer becomes more loyal than your satisfied customer.

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO of

Zappos is a prime example of how their customer excellence drove customer loyalty. Zappos is well-known for their customer-friendly return policy that keeps customers purchasing from them again and again. Zappos delights customers by resolving their issues and exceeding their expectations. The customer service stories are eminent and play an integral role in their brand strategy. Check out the legendary customer experiences here.

Every Interaction is an Opportunity

The bottom line is: exceed your customer’s expectations. Every negative experience is an opportunity to delight and increase your loyal fan base to spread positive organic word-of-mouth. If you can delight your customers, you subsequently drive customer loyalty and increase word of mouth referrals. Not only can negative feedback harm your long-term goal, it also directly affects your bottom line. 5% reduction in customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 – 95% – by Bain & Company.

No matter your industry, there will always be upset customers, but it is critical to be equipped with a strategy to resolve customer matters. An effective way to approach dissatisfied customers strategically is to view negative word of mouth as an opportunity. Start by asking yourself: How are you responding to your dissatisfied customers?

About the Author:
Jamie Yan is the Product Marketing Manager for QuestionPro CX. Learn how QuestionPro facilitates customer conversations that deepen loyalty, drive revenue and, gain advantage over your competitors.