How to answer "Tell me about a time when you had to handle a dissatisfied customer or client." (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers ask this:

The question "Tell me about a time when you had to handle a dissatisfied customer or client" is a common behavioral interview question that hiring managers ask to assess a candidate's ability to handle potentially difficult situations in the workplace. By asking this question, employers are trying to gauge a candidate's communication skills, problem-solving ability, and customer service skills. This question also helps employers determine how well a candidate can handle stress and pressure in a fast-paced work environment.

How to answer the question:

To effectively answer the question "Tell me about a time when you had to handle a dissatisfied customer or client," you should follow the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Here's how you can use the STAR method to answer this question:

  1. Situation: Start by briefly describing the situation in which the incident occurred. Explain what the customer was unhappy about and why they were displeased.
  2. Task: Discuss the task or responsibility that you had to accomplish in addressing the situation. Explain what was expected of you in that situation and what actions you needed to take.
  3. Action: Explain the action that you took to resolve the customer's issue. Be specific about the steps you took to address the customer's concerns and how you communicated with them throughout the process.
  4. Result: Finally, discuss the outcome of the situation. Explain how your actions positively resolved the customer's issue, how you ensured that the customer was satisfied, and what you learned from the experience.

It's essential to keep in mind that the interviewer wants to gauge how well you handled and learned from the experience. Be honest and mention what you could have done better but ensure to emphasize how you addressed the customer's concerns and rectified the situation while satisfying their requirements.

Sample answers

Bad answer: I've never really had to deal with a dissatisfied customer before, so I don't have an example to share with you.

Explanation: This is a bad answer because it shows that the candidate lacks experience in handling difficult situations, which can be a red flag for potential employers. It is important to acknowledge that dealing with dissatisfied customers is a common scenario in many industries.

Good answer: At my previous job, I worked in customer service for a retail company and there was a situation where a customer was unhappy with the product they received and wanted a refund. I empathized with the customer's frustration and listened to their concerns. I then offered to exchange the product for a different item or process a refund for them. The customer was happy with the solution and appreciated the effort I made to resolve their issue.

Explanation: This is a good answer because it demonstrates that the candidate has experience in dealing with difficult customers and knows how to handle them professionally. Using specific examples and addressing the issue right away impresses the interviewer that this person can communicate effectively and solve problems in a constructive manner.

Bad answer: I'm not a confrontational person, so I would have probably just apologized to the customer and tried to avoid any further issues.

Explanation: This is a bad answer because it shows that the candidate lacks confidence when dealing with difficult customers. This approach can also lead to the customer feeling that their concerns aren't being addressed properly and can create more tension. The interviewer will want to see that you can handle conflict and take appropriate steps to diffuse difficult situations quickly and professionally.

Good answer: In my current role, a client was unhappy with the timeline for a project, which I fully understood. I took the initiative to communicate with the client frequently, providing regular updates and discussing what could be done to solve the issue. We eventually found a solution that worked for both the client and our team, which resulted in a positive outcome and a successful project result.

Explanation: This is a good answer as it showcases the importance of frequent communication which helps set expectations and prevent escalation of unresolved issues. Additionally, the candidate shows that they can collaborate effectively with team members and clients to find solutions that work for everyone involved. This approach can turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, and it demonstrates excellent problem solving and project management skills.

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