8 Ways to Successfully Deal With an Angry Customer

Dane Panes

Updated: December 17, 2020

Key Takeaways

Angry customers are a part of running a business. There are countless reasons why a customer may be dissatisfied with your company. Perhaps it was a mistake on your part, like a bug on your website, a misleading offer, or a rude employer. It could also be something completely out of your control, like delivery delays due to bad weather or an unprecedented global pandemic.

Whatever the situation may be, working in a service industry requires you to address and amend the problem and properly deal with an angry customer. Here are eight tips for doing just that:

1. Stay Calm

When an irate customer calls or enters your store, one vital thing to remember is to remain calm. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire. Most likely their anger is directed at the product or service they purchased. Even though they’re taking that anger out on you, don’t take it personally. If they are yelling or raising their voice, do not reciprocate. Not only is it unprofessional, but chances are it will only escalate the situation.

Keep your cool, listen to them, and address the issue at hand. Start with asking the three “what’s”:

    • What is the problem?
    • What does the customer hope to achieve?
    • What are the different solutions you can propose to resolve the issue?

Always aim to de-escalate your customer’s anger. As the customer starts to calm down, it will be easier to pin down the problem and come up with solutions that benefit both parties.

2. Listen and Empathize

When a customer voices to you that they did not have a positive experience with your company, your first instinct may be to get defensive. Avoid that urge. Listen to what they have to say. Whether the interaction is done over the phone, online or in-person, reiterate to them that you hear them. At this point, the most productive thing you can do as a business owner is to acknowledge the person’s frustration and assure them that you will do everything in your power to right the wrong. Empathize with them. Use words like “I understand why you are upset,” or “I understand why you would be frustrated.”

3. Repeat and Clarify Their Needs

It’s important to make sure you and the customer are on the same page. When they articulate the problem they encountered or are encountering, repeat it to them so they know you were listening and understand how to address their needs. For example, if a customer is complaining about a faulty remote, start your response with, “from what I understand, you want us to replace/fix your remote”. This will ensure that you’re not failing to address anything the customer needs.

4. Be Careful with Your Language

The language you use when dealing with customer complaints is just as important as the solutions you provide. You want to remain positive and communicate to them that you are willing to do whatever is needed to solve their problem at hand. If you have customer service representatives working for you, it’s important they understand this.

You don’t want to get defensive or make your customer feel like they’re the one in the wrong. Avoid saying things like, “actually, that’s not how the product is supposed to be used,” as this phrasing may come off as belittling. Opt for something like, “we recommend using the product for XYZ.” The latter comes across as helpful. Stick to positive words like “yes”, “certainly”, “immediately,” etc. Furthermore, the tone you use is also very important in keeping your customers calm, reassured, and happy. If you’re replying to a complaint via email, proofread it and make sure the language and tone clearly come across.

Be Careful with Your Language

5. Apologize and Thank Your Customers

There is power in apologizing. A simple phrase like, “I’m sorry this happened and I will do my best to resolve the issue for you,” will make the customers feel heard and understood. Acknowledging their complaint – whether it’s reasonable or not – goes a long way in easing their frustration.

While customer complaints aren’t fun to receive, they do play an integral role in improving your business. Beyond just apologizing for the issue they’ve encountered, thank them for taking the time to bring it to your attention and giving you a chance to resolve it.

Perhaps you can also offer them some type of free service or discount that thanks them and incentivizes them to stick with you and give your business another chance. Show them that you value their patronage.

Related: 5 Customer Retention Tips to Keep Them Coming Back for More

6. Offer Solutions and Follow Through

Acknowledging the customer’s dissatisfaction and identifying the issue is only half the battle. The other half is offering a solution and following through on it. It’s likely that customers’ complaints will overlap. Make note of the solutions that work so when the same problem arises, you have the answer ready at hand.

If there are multiple solutions to a problem, make sure you inform the customer of all of them. If you know the issue will take time to resolve, be upfront and honest with them about that. Give them a realistic time-frame for when it will be handled. It’s always best to manage their expectations to avoid further disappointment which would only damage the relationship further.

Needless to say, make sure you follow through with your solutions. If you promised your customers their remote replacement would arrive in three to five days, be sure that it does. If ever there’s a way to exceed their expectations, do it.

7. Personalize Your Responses

Angry and frustrated customers don’t want to feel like they’re just a drop in the bucket. Make the concerted effort to use their name when communicating with them so the interaction feels personalized and they feel valued. As you listen to their complaints and needs, see if there are any points of commonality between you that you can comment on to establish a more personal connection. When you can relate to customers in some way, it humanizes you. This is helpful, especially when the communication is done on the phone or online.

8. Emphasize the Case’s Priority

Customers always want to feel that they are important to your business, especially when they have a complaint that needs to be addressed. You need to make every customer feel like a priority. This can be done using a number of the tips above. Being attentive and listening to them, personalizing your interaction, using positive language, and providing them with a viable solution.

Always let the customer know how critical their opinion is to you and your business. Assure them that the team will take the necessary steps to resolve the problem immediately. Even if it’s just one person working on the issue, ensure that the customers feel that the company is well-aware of their complaints and are working together towards making the situation better.

Final Thoughts: Good Customer Service is Key

Managing and dealing with an angry customer boils down to providing excellent customer service. While the goal is for all your customers to have a positive experience with your business off the bat, mistakes happen. When they do, it’s important that at the very least, their experience in bringing it to your attention and having it resolved is a positive one.

Dealing with angry customers can be stressful and mentally draining. Once you’ve curbed your customer’s anger and resolved the issue, take a minute to yourself and just breathe. Learn from your experiences so that you can handle similar situations better in the future.

Related: How to Keep Your Customers Happy: The Secrets to Success


Dane Panes
Dane Panes started freelance writing in 2017. Since then, she has written about a lot of topics for different businesses. She started writing for SMB Compass in March 2020 and has been a full-time content writer ever since. Now, she focuses mostly on topics related to entrepreneurship and business financing.

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