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Transform upset customers into raving fans

We recently had a new roof put on the house to replace our 25-year-old one. After all, asphalt shingles are supposed to be rectangles, not nearly a powder like ours.

In order to install the roof, the roofing company had to take one of our two satellite dishes off (one was in the middle of the roof and the other was attached on the side of our house) while they put new shingles down. Because satellites have to be aligned at the correct angle, we had to call the satellite company to reconfigure and relocate the dish.

The satellite company used an outside vendor to provide these services. The technician arrived at the appointed time, but he walked in with an attitude of, “I am the boss and you are nothing.” This attitude did not change no matter how nice we were to him.

In order to preserve our warranty on the new roof, we asked him to put the new satellite dish next to the other one, which was not on the roof. He said that this was too hard and he did not get paid to do this. I tried to talk to him about other possible locations for the satellite and he refused. He only wanted to put the dish right in the middle of our new roof. After a half an hour of arguing, I gave up and let him put the dish on the roof just to get the miserable man out of our house and so that we could have TV again.

After he left, and I calmed down. I noticed that he had left a 40-foot length of cable just hanging loose off of our roof. I then called the outsourced company that employed this person.

After I explained the situation, the person on the phone said that she would report the problem and have another technician come out and fix it. As you might guess, nothing happened.

As my customer rage built up, I called the actual satellite company. They apologized profusely and assured me that everything would be fine. They volunteered some price concessions that were very generous but were not requested. Even though I had a problem, they dealt with it by apologizing and saying that it should not have happened. They really seemed to empathize with me about all of the frustration I was experiencing.

This firm took an upset customer and transformed me into a raving fan simply by treating me with respect and empathy.

Remember, when dealing with an upset customer, it is not a battle of who is wrong or right; rather, it is a matter of keeping the customer. Now go out and make sure you have a process set up to handle upset customers.

Jerry Osteryoung, the director of outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship and professor of finance, can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (850) 644-3372.