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How to Handle Angry Customers: Turning Detractors into Promoters
by Adam Enfroy
May 23, 2022
woman complaining about food quality and taste in restaurant.

No matter what industry you are in and no matter how excellent your products or services are, you will always have angry customers. Unfortunately, it’s an inevitable part of business. But that doesn’t mean you should sit back and let your haters be angry.

Because let’s face it, 25% of a company’s market value is based on its reputation, so it makes sense to want to preserve it.

Your angry customers can potentially damage your brand’s perception, spreading negative brand awareness to the wider web, and seriously impact your ability to scale and sell.

In fact, 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do repeat business with you, and bad customer experience reaches twice as many ears as good experiences.

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can turn these negative encounters into positive ones. In this post, we’ll cover four strategies that can help you do exactly that.

But before we get started with the strategies that can help you, let’s have a quick refresher on the concept of net promoter score, as it’ll be important to the framing of our discussion on how to improve customer relationships.

Net promoter score (NPS): a quick refresher

The Net Promoter score is defined as:

“An index ranging from -100 to 100, based on the question, How likely are you to recommend this company? In an NPS survey, customers answer with a number on a scale from 0 to 10.”

net promoter score

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First, you’ll need a dashboard reporting tool like Data Pine to track metrics like NPS in the first place. Once you’ve got that set up, we can get into the nitty-gritty.

Essentially, customers who give ratings of 6 or less are marked as detractors who can potentially tell their friends, family, or social following about their poor experience.

Conversely, promoters score 9 or 10 on the survey, and will likely spread positive brand awareness about your company.

You can calculate your own NPS with the following formula:

NPS formula

Here’s the problem: it is brutally hard to get more promoters. You can’t just snap your fingers and hope they appear out of thin air. And to make matters worse, you need them. For every angry detractor that leaves a review, there are 26 additional detractors:

for every one angry person that leaves a negative review online, there are, on average, 26 other customers who feel the same way but don't say anything.

(Image Source)

As you can imagine, positive and negative reviews heavily sway both brand perception and spending.

If you notice that you have plenty of negative reviews or press online, it’s time to develop a plan to adapt.

Here are a few ways you can do this right now:

1. Respond to customer complaints faster

A recent study found that 82% of consumers rate an immediate response when asking a sales or marketing question as “important” — and 90% of consumers feel the same way when it comes to customer service questions.

Nobody likes to see negative reviews on Yelp or Google. And it’s even worse to see them with zero responses from a company in question.

It tells customers that you simply don’t care, even if that’s not the case.

Conversely, seeing positive reviews that go in detail about your brand can literally increase your conversion rates by multiple percentage points. For example, take a look at this review from a customer at Zoma:

screenshot of google review

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This review touches on multiple pain points and even explains their journey. To someone new to the site who may be wary and cautious, this can push them over the edge to purchase.

How to respond to complaints faster: listen & engage on social media

Currently, over 2.77 billion unique users exist on social media platforms — with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter dominating:

Stats about social media users around the world

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Customers are constantly posting about their experiences with businesses on these social platforms, making them the perfect place to monitor customer engagement.

But the problem is this: many people aren’t directly tagging brands when they complain.

To combat this, you need to actively search for more than just your brand tags. One great way to do this is to search on a particular social platform for your company name or website URLs.

google search results for

For instance, here’s a search for team management software that I queried on Twitter. While the first user tagged Monday, the second did not.

What I typically recommend is to use a tool like Daylite to manage these interactions and follow-ups and assign them to members of your team. For other recommendations, check out my extensive article on CRM software I personally suggest to stay on top of things.

Once your team identifies these public untagged mentions, have them start engaging with customers on social media. Because let’s face it, nothing is more frustrating for a consumer than when companies fail to respond. This only creates a further negative experience and increases the chance of negative posts in the future.

That’s why I highly recommend expanding to podcast and video if you want to succeed in 2020 and beyond. I write more about how to start a podcast on for those looking to step up their marketing strategy this year. And social media should be a big part of your brand engagement strategy beyond just posting company updates. While sharing company updates and your latest blog post is great — that type of content is down 50% in engagement.

At the end of the day, successful social media is all about authentic brand interactions. Engage with your customers, share user-generated content, be real with your followers, be omnipresent, and they will in-turn become more loyal brand advocates. 

2. Implement customer feedback

It’s tempting to just tune out customer complaints and treat them as a few bad apples in the bunch. But more often than not, potential angry customers have great feedback that can help you refine your product or service offering.

And simply not listening to them would be a huge mistake.

Because they are on the outside looking in, their feedback may fix things that you potentially hadn’t thought of.

For instance, check out this interaction between United Airlines and a customer regarding the in-flight food service:

screenshot of a tweet

Instead of brushing the customer off as being picky, they genuinely appreciated the advice and internally reviewed it, working to improve the service going forward.

3. Fix the problem or offer incentives

As a growing company, it can be hard to take a loss on certain things — especially when it comes to paying customers. But if there are no other viable solutions, it only makes sense to fix the problem by compensating a user for the errors made.

Offering refunds, incentives, or fixing the problem is a great way to please angry customers and keep them loyal for years to come. And these don’t have to be huge, major investments. A free month of service or a small discount could do the trick.

So, how can you scale this process and limit the downsides? I recommend using various sales automation tools that will allow you to keep track of customer engagements:

automation software screenshot

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This ensures that at each step you have the proper customer data to make amends for mistakes and offer the right incentives to match their goals.

You can then utilize this for marketing purposes, like citation building for your brand. Citations are simply positive listings of your business online. 

According to the experts at Loganix, they say “building local citations and utilizing positive customer feedback is a 1-2 punch that helps both the business and customer feel appreciated.”

Utilize citation building from the positive experiences you’ve generated with your customers and you will see far-reaching returns.

4. Personalize your customer’s experience

Nothing is worse than getting an unpersonalized experience, both when talking to a customer service agent or when receiving a company marketing communication, such as a newsletter or onboarding email.

For starters, you can template your emails with enough room to grow and personalize from a base as such:

screenshot of an email

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81% of consumers state that they want brands to better understand their needs, wants, and pain points. While 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement. And with millions of blog posts going up daily, it’s no wonder consumers are craving personalized content: the market is saturated by unpersonalized fodder.

Try using more visual, customized graphics in your email marketing that are custom-made for specific audience segments:

You can also use tools like Grammarly to customize both the tone and style of your copy to personalize the messaging even more:

goal selections

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If you are still sending generic content to customers via your newsletter or blog, you need to re-evaluate. Providing content personalization can improve user experience and prevent customers from getting angry in the first place.


Angry detractors have the ability to spread harmful information about your brand. Reviews are one of the biggest sources of trust and authority, and negative reviews can tank your sales. It’s imperative that you manage detractors and turn them into brand promoters instead.

Follow the tips in this post to stay on top of brand mentions and keep your brand perception in good favor.

About the author
Adam Enfroy
Adam Enfroy writes about how to scale your blog like a startup to 250,000 monthly readers. He launched his blog in 2019 and started generating over $35,000/month in revenue within 9 months. He wants to teach new bloggers how to start a blog and do the same.
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