This is How you Handle Dissatisfied Participants

by | Jun 17, 2019 | Course Administration

How to handle dissatisfied participants

The way you handle a complaint from a dissatisfied participant can be the decisive factor between a participant who feels satisfied and a participant who will never have anything to do with you again and spreads the negative message further.

According to Groove, a dissatisfied customer shares their poor experience with a total of 16 people. In today’s social media times, the experience can be shared with a number far beyond this. In other words, treating a dissatisfied participant poorly will not only affect the relationship with that specific participant, but it will also influence others not to enroll in your training.

Here are some tips on how to handle a tense situation with a dissatisfied training participant.


1. Be calm and professional

In a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, the specific reasons why customers experienced customer service interactions negatively were investigated. As many as 67% reported being treated in a poor manner. Although a dissatisfied customer is not always right, they are after all, your customer, and your customers should be treated with respect. Sometimes it can be difficult to set aside your own feelings and frustrations when a customer is upset and rude, but this is essential when dealing with dissatisfied customers.


Nothing good comes from replying an angry customer with an angry answer. This will probably only cause the situation to escalate. Act professionally, though you may feel yourself boiling inside.

Figures from the survey conducted by Dimensional Research


2. Don’t take it personally

Sometimes you deliver exactly what you promised, yet some people are still dissatisfied. Remember: The participant is not dissatisfied with you personally, but they are dissatisfied with the delivery of your service.

Unfortunately, there are also people who are sometimes just difficult, apparently for no reason at all. However, try to help the customer in the best possible way and start everything with your head raised.


3. Listen and sympathize

The first thing a disgruntled participant wants is to express their emotions fully and to explain what the problem is. It is therefore important to listen patiently and uncover the situation. Recognize the participant’s feelings related to the problem, have sympathy and be sensitive to the problem that the participant has. In many cases, the customer cares most about getting the feeling of being understood.

When you have finished listening, try to summarize the problem. Ask questions and further clarify the complaint. Make sure you really understand the actual reason the participant is dissatisfied before attempting to offer them a solution. If you do not, you risk offering them a solution that does not actually make the situation any better.



4. Take ownership

Although it may not be entirely wrong for you to have a problem – take ownership of the situation. Show empathy, assume responsibility, and explain the disgruntled participant how you plan to resolve the situation for them.

Another aspect of taking ownership is not overloading anyone. In the survey conducted by Dimensional Research, it was also discovered that one of the most common reasons for experiencing poor customer service was that the customer had to explain his problem to a number of different people. Further, 65% had the experience that it had taken too long before the problem was resolved. Try to avoid sending the disgruntled participant to someone else if you can solve the problem yourself.


5. Say sorry

Often, a proper excuse is the most important thing to correct a situation where a participant is dissatisfied. Regardless of whether the participant’s complaint is legitimate or not – apologize for the problem they have (or perceive to have). To apologize is not the same as admitting defeat. Apologizing is admitting you are human. That is something customers like and appreciate.

A good example of the effect a sincere apology may have is the story of The University of Michigan Health System. The hospital decided to encourage doctors, nurses and other hospital staff to follow their natural instincts and complain when something went wrong. They wanted to encourage openness between health professionals, patients and their relatives, and when needed, give a warm apology. Many doctors and lawyers worried that this level of openness would lead to an increase in claims and lawsuits related to malpractice. When the project was started, the opposite happened. 262 claims in August 2001 fell to 104 claims in 2006. The hospital’s legal expenses fell by 50%. It turned out that people liked the human connection in a sincere apology.


6. Find a solution

51% reported in the Demensional Reserach survey that the fact that the problem was not solved was a specific reason why they had a poor customer service experience.

Once you understand what your participant is dissatisfied with, you should offer them a solution to the problem. Ask what the participant feels should be done to rectify the situation or offer a fair and realistic solution yourself. If possible, try to give the customer more than they have asked for. By offering a good solution that exceeds the participant’s expectations, you will be able to turn a disgruntled participant into a satisfied participant.



7. Learn from your mistakes and see the opportunity for improvement

A complaint from a participant can be a great starting point for making improvements to your course. Although the truth is that not all customers are always right, a complaint will almost always be a chance to improve your business. A dissatisfied customer can give you valuable insight into what changes are needed in your training business. Take the criticism and learn from it!


Turn unhappy customers into happy customers

We have now seen that with the proper treatment of training participants, you will be able to turn a disgruntled participant into a happy participant. Good handling of a tense situation with a disgruntled participant will not only save your relationship with the specific participant, but also save your training activities from the spread of negative publicity.

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Author: Eline Hagene

Author: Eline Hagene

Inbound Marketing Manager

Eline produces content to help training providers achieve a more efficient and profitable day. She is certified in the Inbound methodology through Hubspot and has completed a Bachelor of Marketing management at BI Norwegian School of Management. Visit Eline’s LinkedIn profile here.

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