How to Turn Dissatisfied Customers into Loyal Ones

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Customer experience is so crucial to a business’s success that it is surprising how little effort many companies put into it. Moreover, negative customer experiences have the potential to destroy businesses more than ever with the increased ease of sharing them online. While providing excellent customer service and attempting to produce the highest quality products and services should be the first priority of any business, there is still a chance you’ll face dissatisfied clients at one time or another. If you play your cards right, you can use these opportunities to build client loyalty from an unlikely situation.

A little over a year ago, I hired a photographer to take pictures of my second daughter as a newborn. You may remember this story from my post, 4 Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Service Providers. There were certain criteria the photographer had to meet- specializing in working with newborns, would come to my house to take the photos, provided a large quantity of digital photos I could print on my own, and was within a reasonable budget.

I found a photographer through a local Facebook group, looked through her portfolio, felt that she was capable of taking the style of images I was looking for, and booked her for the session. I shared with her which photos in her portfolio I wanted to mimic the style of. We had several exchanges via email where she confirmed what I was looking for- light, bright, simple, soft. When she came to take the photos, she was sweet, patient, and personable.

When I received the final images, my heart sank. I had just plunked down a decent chunk of change to capture my baby during a fleeting time, and the photos were terrible. Of course my little girl looked angelic, but the quality of the images was not up to par. Contrary to what I was looking for, they were dark, and in some cases out of focus. There were shadows where there shouldn’t be, which even a novice photographer should be able to spot before snapping the photo. It was not the work of a professional who charges the rate she charged. But what did I do? Nothing. I don’t know why but I did not complain. I didn’t ask for a re-do. I didn’t ask for a refund. I just accepted it as a loss. And after the digital photos were emailed to me, I never heard from her again.

Now let’s explore what this photographer and any business could do to retain existing clients- even those who have had a negative experience.


This is one of the simplest ways to show that you care about the relationship beyond a transaction. In my example with the photographer, wasn’t it a red flag to her that I did not write back a thank you email gushing over how much I loved the pics of my sweet newborn?!

A simple 1-minute survey, or a quick and casual email to a client to see if they were satisfied with the service goes a long way to building loyalty, as well as improving your service based on the feedback since ultimately, providing the best quality will be the number one factor in client retention.

If you ask no other question, consider asking the following to get a "Net Promoter Score."

How likely are you to recommend [company name] to a friend or colleague?

0 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- 10

Not at all likely Extremely likely

Why did you give us the rating above?

Obtaining a net promoter score allows you to see whether a customer would be considered a "promoter" (score of 9 or 10), "neutral" (score of 7 or 8), or "detractor" (score of 6 or below). Detractors are those who are likely to speak negatively about your business to others, while promoters will go out of their way to encourage others to do business with you. Your Net Promoter Score will be the percentage of customers who are promoters minus the percentage who are detractors.


Providing a guarantee on your work is the proactive way to go about ensuring customer satisfaction. If you don’t spell out an up-front guarantee, capturing feedback from the client will be crucial to ensuring you remedy any problems. In the case of the photographer, had she asked me for my feedback, I would have been candid…in a nice way of course. THEN, she could have decided to offer a re-shoot, discount, or money back.

This would have gone a long way in me considering giving her a second chance. I would have undoubtedly taken the “re-shoot” option and would have walked away from our relationship feeling as though the provider cared more about my satisfaction than about the money she made off of me. While the quality of the second set of photos would play a role in my decision to book her again in the future, her effort to ensure my satisfaction would impact that decision most prominently.


After collecting feedback from a dissatisfied customer, and hopefully making amends in some way, it is critical to remain in touch. This is best done through regular email. Keep in mind though, that the emails should impart value of some kind- tips, entertainment, discounts, etc.

Even if you did NOT gather feedback or provide restitution to the dissatisfied customer, there is a small chance of earning their business in the future simply by staying in touch. Providing consistent value to your past clients via email could potentially outweigh one negative purchase, and staying top of mind could benefit you if they need to make a quick decision about hiring a service provider.

Had the photographer used an email campaign to showcase her recent work, discuss photography and editing tips she uses and is learning about, and shared opportunities for discounts on upcoming sessions, I may have decided to give her a second shot. Sharing the type of content I described would show that the business owner is serious about improving their service and cares about their clients. If the price was right and the mood struck to have some family photos taken, she could have potentially picked up business that would otherwise have been left on the table.

While using all three of the strategies laid out here will yield the greatest efforts in transforming dissatisfied clients into loyal ones, you can begin making small strides by implementing even one of these tactics. Remedying poor transactions is the most crucial element to building loyalty, or at the very least, keeping a customer from bashing your business publicly which can have a detrimental ripple effect.

It all comes down to putting your clients at the forefront of everything you do. If your business exists to add value and solve peoples’ problems, you’ll have so few dissatisfied customers that you won’t need to have a formal emergency response plan in place.