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By Jaidyn Crookston | October 18, 2023 | 8 Minute Read

How to Turn Upset Customers into Advocates for Your Institution

How to Turn Upset Customers into Advocates for Your Institution

It happened again. A teller at one of your bank branches made a small mistake (they’re human, after all), and now a customer is angry. 


The customer (let’s call him John) has banked at your institution for years and has never made any comments before (positive or negative). But this experience really rubbed him the wrong way, and he’s gone from impartial to angry. John sends a strongly worded email to your customer support team explaining how the teller let him down and asking what you plan to do about it


Obviously, angry customers aren’t good for business (although believe it or not, complaints can actually be a good thing). So, what can you do? 


Anyone can turn against your business—it only takes one bad experience—but almost anyone can be brought back around. And those customers who come back may even become advocates for your institution. 


John? An advocate?? That angry guy?


Seems unlikely, we know, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. 


Taking a customer from upset to advocate isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Customers who love your institution are more likely to promote it to family and friends, continue banking there for a long time, and spread the word. The more happy customers your bank or credit union has, the faster your institution can grow. 


If you can get back on John’s good side, there’s a chance his recommendation will help your institution down the road. And you won’t lose his business. 


But how do you get on his good side and handle the problem? Here are the steps that may take your customers from upset to advocate. 


1. Listen, Listen, Listen


The first step in taking John from upset to advocate is listening carefully to his concerns. Show empathy and understanding, even if his complaint is…a bit silly. Letting a customer vent goes a long ways. Chances are you’ve experienced this yourself. Sometimes you just need to get things off your chest, and having someone listen to you respectfully puts your mind at ease. When John feels heard and understood, he’s more likely to calm down and be open to a resolution.


2. Stay Calm and Professional


Put yourself in John’s shoes. He’s frustrated with the service he received, and you’re the only one who can help him in this moment. No matter what, you need to stay calm and professional. Even if a customer’s claims are unjustified or put your institution in a bad light, they have a right to their opinion. And you have the chance to turn that around. So never respond negatively and never say that the situation is your customer’s fault. 


A little empathy goes a long way here. Use phrases like "I understand why you're upset" or "I'm sorry to hear you're going through this." Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t set John’s expectations too high. And NEVER say something you’re going to regret later. That will just make it harder to turn this upset customer into an advocate for your institution. 


Bank employee listening calmly and professionally to an angry customer


3. Apologize Sincerely


A sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation. Even if John’s problem wasn't directly your institution's fault, apologize for the inconvenience and frustration. This shows that you care about him and value his business. And if the issue is your institution’s fault (it happens), do everything in your power to fix the problem and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 


4. Understand the Root Cause and Take Action


Saying that you’ll fix the problem doesn’t mean anything unless you take actions to do so. (And your customer can tell if you’re being sincere or simply brushing him off.) To make sure this issue doesn’t arise again, you need to understand the root cause of John’s problem. Is it a problem with management? Is there something about your branch layout causing the problem? Is it one employee causing distress or is it a branch-wide issue? There are dozens of possibilities here, and the nature of John’s complaint will determine where you look. But do everything you can to find the root cause and fix it. 


Even if John’s claims are unjustified, is there anything you can do to make his experience better in the future? And if you can’t make any changes, listening and apologizing can go a long ways. Don’t make excuses or make him feel unheard. That’s the last thing you should do if you want to turn this upset customer into an advocate.


5. Follow Up


Once you’ve resolved the issue, you want John to know. If he makes a complaint and never hears from you again, he’s going to assume that nothing was done and his complaint fell on deaf ears. 


You might send a follow-up email, make a phone call, or even visit the customer in person (depending on the severity of the complaint). Explain what steps you took to resolve the issue and how you’ve ensured that it won’t happen again. 


Taking the time to follow up shows that you genuinely care about John’s experience and are committed to making things right. At this point, most upset customers will see your efforts and change their opinion about your institution. John may not be an advocate yet, but he’ll at least appreciate what you’ve done and won’t spread negative comments. 


6. Invite Feedback


After following up with John, encourage him to submit feedback any time, positive or negative. This shows that you’re dedicated to continued improvement and want to hear from him. 


And make the feedback process as easy as possible. Customers submitting complaints are already upset, you don’t want to make it worse by having a difficult complaints process. That’s just asking for trouble. 


Having a direct link to submit complaints (or compliments) can reduce tension and make customers more likely to reach out. This link should live on your bank website, social media pages, QR codes within the branch, and anywhere else customers may see it. 


An example of a webpage collecting customer feedback


From upset to advocate


Now John has experienced the full force of your customer support and complaint resolution. He should feel appreciated, heard, and satisfied that his problem has been resolved. 


“Wow,” John might say. “I had a problem at the branch last week, but they really took care of me. I can tell they care what I think, and now I’m excited to tell my friends about this institution’s amazing customer service. I never expected them to go so above and beyond.” (Okay, he probably won’t say exactly that. But he may tell his friends!) 


This approach may not work 100% of the time. Some customers are too angry or stubborn to be brought back. But if you follow this framework and truly care about each one of your customers, chances are you’ll bring them back around and help your institution grow. Just like it only takes one bad experience to turn a customer against you, it can also take one great experience to bring them back.



Responding to customer complaints is only half the battle. You also have to track complaint data, find trends, and report to the board. Most financial institutions use spreadsheets to track this data, but does that really cut it? 


Kadince’s complaint management software makes it easy to track complaint data, respond to customers, find trends, and report to the board. Everything is kept in one place so your customer support team doesn’t wonder who’s going to respond. No more missed complaints! 


To learn more about how Kadince can take your complaint tracking to the next level, schedule a demo.



None of Kadince, Inc., its affiliates, or its respective employees, directors, officers, and agents (collectively, “Kadince”) are responsible or liable for any content or information incorporated herein. Read full disclosure.

Jaidyn Crookston | Content Manager, Kadince

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