Angry customers happen. Sometimes it’s your fault. Sometimes it isn’t. Above all, remain calm, practice humility and know that this interaction won’t last forever. As you assess the situation, mentally ask yourself these questions:
- What is the customer truly angry about? Are they angry at you, at the situation or at something unrelated to you and your business?
- Did you or your company do something wrong? If it’s your company’s fault, then own up to it.
- What can you apologize for? Giving a genuine apology often surprises the customer and diffuses anger. (Whatever you do, don’t say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” That’s not soothing at all).
- What can you change for this customer? Angry customers typically want you to do something. They may not even know what they want, so get creative and suggest things that are within your power.
- Do you want to keep this customer? If all else fails, and you decide this customer’s business is not worth keeping, quickly and kindly bring the interaction to a close. Admit to the customer that you can’t meet their expectations.
How to Deal with Angry Customers in Person
Being face-to-face with an angry customer is a definite challenge. Along with remaining calm, you need to maintain facial composure (no rolling your eyes!). In this situation, it’s best to let the customer get everything off their chest. Don’t interrupt, but do make eye contact and remember points that you can address. An angry, ranting person doesn’t remember everything they’ve said, and you can use that to your advantage.
Once they’ve calmed down, transition the interaction to a conversation. If they were incoherent or hard to understand, carefully ask for clarity, “So I can resolve this, please help me understand…” or “This is very upsetting to hear. Tell me more about…”
If you can get them to smile or laugh, their anger will have fully diminished. Remember to find something to apologize for and something you can change.
How to Deal with Angry Customers on the Phone
A phone conversation with an angry customer follows much the same path as in person. Be very careful with your vocabulary and vocal inflections, because you won’t have calm, reassuring facial expressions to get your meaning across.
As a bonus, you can make all the stress-relieving expressions and gestures you want while listening to an angry rant. But turn the smile back on as soon as it’s your turn to speak.
How to Deal with Angry Customers in Writing (Email, Text, Messages, Etc.)
Asynchronous arguments present their own challenges. You won’t be yelled at, but you’ll be expected to parse what the customer means vs. what they wrote. And your first response needs to be both reassuring and rapid.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll be able to apologize and make changes in the first reply. If you need to ask questions, let the customer know why. For instance, “Your frustration is completely justified. To avoid further mistakes, I need to ask a few questions for clarity. Then, we will get this fixed right away. Thanks for your help.”
Finally, I’m going to share my #1 secret for addressing angry customers: make a bigger deal about it than they do. Eventually, they will be driven to say, “Oh, well, it’s not quite that bad…” Shhh, don’t tell them I told you.
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