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How to Deal with Angry Customers


By JoJo Tabares

"I am tired of YOU PEOPLE sending me this dumb invoice every month!" Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it? You may be thinking...He sounds angry and I don't like talking to angry people.

Well, would you believe me if I told you that you could learn some techniques that would turn this person in to a happy customer? It's true!

Many times what an angry person really wants is someone who will listen and do their best to help. They don't necessarily need someone to say the "right thing" or someone who will "solve all their problems". They just need you to listen and do your level best to help them get what they feel they deserve.

Now we interrupt this communication advice for a message from reality: *BIG DISCLAIMER* Nothing in communicating with human beings is certain because every person is different and their moods change from day to day or even minute by minute.

Nothing works 100% of the time, but these tips will help you increase your chances of creating a connection with this person and enable him walk away feeling that you honestly did you utmost to help him!

1. Don't take it personally.

Understand that most angry customers aren't angry with you personally, but rather with the situation in which they currently find themselves. They may be frustrated and, until you hear them out, you have no idea why.

2. Let them vent.

Part of being good at customer service is letting the customer feel that he has the floor. Let him tell you the entire story. Take notes if it is long or involved. Only after the customer has felt like he has said his peace should you attempt to solve his problem. Make sure you are actively listening to what he is saying and what he is not saying. Sometimes you can tell more about what would satisfy a customer by paying attention to what your customer didn't say or by the nonverbal cues your customer gives out -than you can by the words he chooses.

3. Ask for clarification if there is something that you do not understand.

Better to ask what may seem like a dumb question then to start off on the wrong path to solve his problem. If you begin by answering a question he didn't ask, the anger will only intensify. Make sure you know what it is that happened and perhaps what he wants done about it before you begin.

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4. Validate your customer.

Sympathize and empathize with your customer as much as possible. Tell him you are sorry that he is so frustrated. This is not the same as admitting fault or accepting blame for the situation. It just further lets your customer know that you are there to help him and are interested in his welfare and not just the company's bottom line. Otherwise your reactions to his anger or your responses to his statements may serve only to fuel the customer's anger.

5. State back to the customer what you heard him say.

To make sure you didn't misunderstand, state back to the customer what you heard him say is the problem. This way you can clear up any last minute details before you get into the answer with him.

6. You don't have to have all the answers.

Saying "I don't know." may be the correct answer to the customer's question. One of the worst things you can do is to pretend to know the answer only to find that it won't work for the customer. Be honest and tell the customer you will have to find out for him and call him back. Ask him if he can hold if the answer is within reach. Make sure you follow up with the customer when you said you would!

7. Share your commonalities with your customer instead of focusing on the differences.

Identify with him by bringing out something that you both have in common. Perhaps share a short story about something similar that happened to you.

8. Tell your customer what you can do for him.

If you can do exactly what your customer wants, fantastic! If you can't, have another proposal ready that would be a good fit for your customer. If you feel it is warranted (and if you can), offer a freebie or a discount on another product to show good faith.

9. If your suggestion doesn't appeal to the customer, ask him what he would like you to do and see if you can accommodate him.

Sometimes your customer may not even know what he wants from you. Stating this may help your customer realize that they are being unreasonable. Or perhaps your customer will come up with a way that will work for him that you would never have thought of on your own.

10. Explain why you may be limited in what you can do.

If it simply isn't possible to do what he wants or if it is just too costly for your company to do this, explain that openly and honestly with your customer.

11. Thank your customer for bringing this to your attention.

If they have brought an issue to your attention that will allow you to better meet the needs of your other customers, this is a good thing for you to know! Thank your customer for allowing you to provide better service or a better product to your customers. They will appreciate knowing that not only did you help them with their problem, but that they were the catalyst for a positive change in your company.

© JoJo Tabares, 2002-present
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication and has over 20 years of experience in the field. She is the author of the Say What You Mean series of studies on effective communication skills. For more information, please visit her website, Art of Eloquence at ArtOfEloquence.com.

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