How can I turn an angry customer into a loyal customer?

I do not deal well with confrontation. My first instinct when I get a customer complaint is to ignore it and let them go. (Terrible approach, I know!) This is something I need to work on, and the best way for me to do this is to face our angriest customers. We just launched and have had our ups and downs. Instead of letting those customers go, I want to turn their experience around. What's the best way to approach them and change their mind? Thank you!

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Hi Becca
Firstly, congratulations on facing what many people want to move away from. And there is a lot of evidence that a customer with a problem will tell a lot of other potential customers, BUT a customer with a problem that is dealt with well will tell many more about how good you are, and that creates loyalty.

So here's a few steps:
1. Let go of blame (on yourself or your customer); what (if anything) went wrong is for you and your team to review, not for discussion with the customer
2. Perception is everything; whether or not you think they got bad service, THEY think they did, so the truth in their world is that there is a problem; accept their view of the world (however unrealistic) and start from there
3. Take time to listen to their complaint (most customers will tell you this goes a long way to building a trusting relationship); do not defend; we call this separating person and problem, just get the facts and how they feel about it.
4. Establish a resolution; sometimes it's right to ask the customer (often just listening and accepting will be enough) what would put it right for them, sometimes we need to make a small gesture, other times the action is obvious, ie replacing an item post free.
5. do whatever it takes (within reason) to redress the complaint. An apology (even if don't think they deserve one) is sometimes enough; there's no room for pride in customer relationships
6.Follow up to ensure satisfaction
7. go back and review the complaints with your team, and think of them as opportunities to improve your systems, service etc. Think of complaints as a form of feedback, a market survey that was free!

Sometimes explaining that eg you're just starting and therefore there's a learning curve, will help with some customers, but mostly people aren't interested in your problems, only their own, so only mention this if you feel it will help. Even if you do, still apologise and seek to redress the situation.

If you need to call and open a conversation with an angry customer, start by acknowledging their position ("I know you weren't happy with...and we'd like to put it right...")

If you pick up a call from an angry customer, stay calm, and start with "Yes, I can understand that that is...", then seek resolution.

Most important in this is your frame of mind - it's not a personal attack, it's someone's views of their experience in their world, and you can decide what you do with it.

Would love to hear how you get on

Best wishes

Great response Anne.


The good news is that you have angry customers. Really. I'll prove it in a moment, but you need to start with that attitude. It's good news that you have angry customers. Say that again, out loud.


1) You have customers. Customers mean revenues. Revenue means you're in business. Celebrate!

2) You have customers who value what you (could) produce. Value means they'll pay you. Payment means revenue. Rinse. Repeat.

3) You have customers who are willing to give you a chance to make things right - you would not know they were angry otherwise. (You'd be much worse off if they simply walked away from you and did not complain.) This is an ***opportunity*** not a problem. Opportunity is why this is good news. Say it again, it's good to have angry customers.

What is it an opportunity for?
"It's an opportunity for me to spend my time listening to them complain, and then using my resources to fix things." WRONG ANSWER

It's an opportunity to do a lot of thing:
A) It's an opportunity to understand your customer better. What value was expected? How did what was delivered fall short? How did that affect their lives and business? As Ed Drozda said, approach them with genuine concern. This is not about your pain in serving's about their pain caused by you.

B) It's an opportunity to improve your business. Did you promise the wrong thing, over-promise on the right thing, under deliver? You will never, ever find this out from happy customers and therefore your business will not improve. Angry customers tell you how to fix things. At the risk of repeating myself, it's good to have them!

C) It's an opportunity to make things right...not just to show concern (in A), but to *demonstrate* concern for their lives and their business. You asked how to create a loyal customer? Demonstrate you are concerned about them at least as much as you are about yourself. Angry customers are *handing* you the chance to do so...the chance to earn their loyalty. You should be grateful, not fearful.

This is what it means to be customer focused. Customers know when you are, even when they're angry, and that makes them loyal.


Hi Becca, these situations are always awkward, but the approach that I use may be of help to you as well.

These situations can be highly charged emotionally from the customer side. As such, they must "ventilate" before you can "communicate" to resolve the matter. They have to "get it off their chest" before you can get them to listen and to consider your resolution to the issue at hand.

Do not take it personally...if you do, you will come across as defensive, which will aggravate the situation. The customer rarely is upset with you personally...they are upset with the situation, real or perceived, what ever it may be.

Stop what you are doing, put down anything that you have in your hands and give your customer your undivided attention. Look the customer in the eye. Acknowledge their dissatisfaction..."I am sorry, what can I do to resolve this matter for you?" That statement alone will usually disarm a the customer as they expect a defensive posture in most cases.

At some point the customer will pause their venting for a reaction from you. You then say..." I am sorry that this happened, Is there anything else I should know about this matter?" This encourages the customer to further "ventilate" while you patiently listen to them. Once they have finished "ventilating", you ask..."What is it that you would like me to do to resolve this matter to your satisfaction?"

Now you are perceived as the advocate for the customer, not their adversary.

Before the customer leaves, present them with a coupon for a bonus of some sort..."Because we value you as a customer, please accept this coupon for a X% discount on you next purchase" - or something simlar.

Problem-solving with the customer can win you a customer for life...and positive referrals.

Good luck!



I agree that it is more important to determine where the frustration is coming from with a customer problem. Often times if you are not dealing -- but customer service is dealing with an irate customer, by the time they reach you -- yes, they are irate. In any event the more you ignore a problem with a customer the worse it will get. You knew that already. I commend you for recognizing confrontation is not your strong point. However, admitting you have a problem is the first step. There are very few people, myself included, who shy away from confrontation.

The best way to deal with a customer with a problem is as soon as possible, be sure to hear them out thoroughly and determine the best steps to take to make that customer a happy customer. This will not work with ALL client problems, but I guarantee when customer issues are met head-on and quickly, discussed and corrected, you have a happy customer and you learn how to deal with the issue if arises again. It is a learning experience.

Remember to keep a record of all customer complaints/problems as it may be something within your company and your customer(s) are raising a red flag.

Good luck and God Bless!

April D Halliburton


I think the company you work for is blessed to have you on board, because although you don't enjoy confrontation, you still want to improve your customer's experiences. The thing is, no one enjoys confrontation. But usually, when a customer gets angry, it's not directed at you, are the only person they can be angry with because you represent your company. Most of the time, customers get angry because of other stuff behind the scenes, like faulty processes. That is not your problem, but because you are there, in front of them, you get the brunt of it.

What is wonderfully fulfilling is turning an angry customer into a happy, delighted one.

All you need to do is put yourself in their shoes. What they really want is to know they are being heard and that the company is sorry. So here's how to handle it:

Look into their eyes. With great sincerity, acknowledge their feelings. E.g. "I can understand how angry that must make you".

Then apologize on behalf of the company.

Then do something to make amends. It is as this point that you have the opportunity to make a angry customer a delighted one. However, sometimes this part requires a customer-centric company because it may entail a cost. You need to either go out of your way to do something for the customer, and let them know, or you need to give them something of value to them.

Here's a scenario: you're at a restaurant. When you begin eating, you find a hair in your food. You call the waiter. If he is good, and if the company allows it, he will have the authority to make amends. How would you feel if he flippantly said, "oh sorry, I can bring you another one"? Or how would you feel if he looked you in the eye, and said, "I am so sorry about this. I will take your plate away immediately. Can I bring you another meal, and for the trouble, can we give you a free cup of coffee for you and your guest at the end of your meal? Or would you like a glass of wine on the house?"

In the one scenario, you would get angry. In the other, you would have felt heard, you would have a heartfelt apology, and you would be delighted that you get a free drink. And you would walk out of there happy and content.

Good luck!

Great response.


Hi Becca,
great insights here. I liked the structured approach by Anne. she put step-by-step method. Allow me to put my top tips:

1. the great news is you know your limitations. You are already changing your mind set about angry customers and customer complains. These are extremely beneficial feedback to you on areas need improvement. So after resolving the problem, make sure you review your business practices so t dosn't happen aain with customers.

2. Let the angry customer vent like a boiling pot. Nothing will appen before that. During the venting phase listen to understand and fre your mind from preparing any answer. Just put all your energy to listen. May be taking notes as well.

3. See what the customer want done, and what you can do. reach a middle ground or best possible solution. Then ask the customer upfront if this mishappening will prevent him / her from repeating business with you.

4. After solving the problem, follow up to make sure things are fixed and in place. Foloww up makes big difference. It shows you are. Keep connected with and ngage your customers to prevent them from going to competition.

Wish you all success.


Becca, try not to look at it as confrontation, rather a challenge that you can solve.
Be sure to focus on the challenge at hand and not on the person or their behavior as that is not the cause of the challenge.
Listen - quietly to what the person has to say and see the challenge through their eyes.
Empathize - recognize their feelings and let them know you understand how they feel.
Identify - the specific challenge with the person.
Ask - what would need to be done to make them happy.
Solve - the challenge by doing what needs to be done.
Apologize - and thank them for their understanding and wish them well.
This is a simple six step process and there are a variety of steps that will work. I would like to suggest you consider a step by step process and use it as a guide to follow when you have to solve challenges for your customers.
I think it would be a good idea to follow up a day or two later to make sure that everything is going well, this shows you care.
The last step is to see what you can do to make sure the same challenge does not come up again.
Remember your focus is to solve the challenge for them rather than focus on changing their mind.
Oh, and by the way, there are some customers you just cannot please and they are going to try to make your day miserable anyway. If you follow your steps and do what you can then so be it, you know you did your best. Sometimes it is good to lose a troublesome customer.


Address the ISSUE, not the anger. Let me give you a perfect example. Years ago a client providing temporary help got call from an angry ex-client who was screaming on the phone "I got this bill from you and I haven't done business with you in years..." and he kept screaming. Now what would you do? Ignore it? Panic and say you're sorry and that it will be fixed immediately?

Not my client. He responded "Oh, how come?"

It stopped the client dead in his tracks. "What do you mean how come?"

My client then asked why he hadn't done business with them in years. After a brief conversation he resolved the bill (a simple credit), resolved why he hadn't done business and got the client back. As my client said, resolving the bill is easy - somebody in accounting goofed. Getting the client back is more important.

So, LISTEN carefully. What is the real issue and how can you fix it. And always respond. I also learned to give out my home phone number as a comfort. In the decades that I have done that I have never had a client call at home!

What is you are selling? COMFORT. Here's an article I wrote for Gifts & Dec Magazine that has some tips:


Good choice in making the decision to face them head on! First, find out why they are angry - just simply ask and allow them to express themselves. Apologize for whatever the situation or issue which is creating their unhappiness. Offer a solution to the customer if one is readily available. If not - then advise the customer that you would like - give a time frame - (10 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever you feel is necessary) to come up with a solution. Keep your word on the time frame. Customers can be very understanding when their issue is heard and some type of solution offered. Ask if the solution offered meets their resolution needs. Call a day later (if possible) to get the customer's "temperature" in regards to how they feel about your company. May I also suggest that you track the reasons that customers are angry. This will help in determining if there is a pattern to the reasons customers are angry. Hope this helps!


Sometimes there really isn't anything you can do about an angry customer except to let them vent at you. I took both sales and customer service calls at a call center for many years. The easiest ones just needed somebody to yell at, they were frustrated nobody seemed to listen. Once they were done venting, I might suggest ways to relieve their frustration. The most angry ones that seemed to have a legal case, I suggested contacting their lawyers and gave them a mailing address in which to send legal communications to. The vast majority of people were happy to have some kind of direction to go. We all want a product or service that works for us. Put yourself in their shoes – what would satisfy you?

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