10 Tricks to Defuse Angry Customers

By Christine James,
business.com writer
Nov 16, 2017
Image Credit: pathdoc/Shutterstock

Turn ticked off patrons to temperate ones with these customer service tips.

If you work with people in a customer service capacity, you have more than likely experienced the rude, frustrated or downright mad customer.

No matter how friendly or professional the encounter begins, it takes a very sudden downward turn. The customer engages in sarcastic or disparaging comments about the company policies, products or services.

They are unhappy and make sure you know it.

At this point, the way you handle an angry customer can make or break your reputation, in addition to your business's image.

What can you do to not only diffuse the customer's anger, seemingly spewed directly at you, and resolve the issue on a high note?

Is the customer always right?

The goal of providing excellent customer service is to listen and identify the issue. When a customer complains, it's your job to identify the real problem, despite an angry, emotional conversation.  

In order to make this process easier, start with the attitude that the customer is right and has a valid complaint. With this mindset, it's easier to work through the call without a defensive tone on your end. Then, be sure to follow these 10 tips.

  1. It's not you

    One of the most difficult things to remember in a heated one-way exchange with a customer is that it's nothing personal. The customer is reacting negatively because they feel slighted in some way, or are disappointed with the product or service. It's really not about you, it's about them.

  2. Remain calm

    Another difficult hurdle is to remain calm during a highly emotional encounter. Do not respond to high emotion with an equal level of high emotion.

  3. Use your inside voice

    Speaking in a slow, calm, quiet tone can have a direct impact on the customer. While listening to your calm, collected voice, it helps them to realize they need to calm down.

  4. Assurance

    Assuring the customer that you will do everything in your power to correct the issue helps them understand that you are on their side and want to positively resolve their issue.

  5. Parroting

    Repeat the customer's words back to them. This demonstrates that you are really listening and care about the issue at hand.

  6. Empathy rules

    In most cases, customers will calm down once they realize that you understand what the problem is and why they are upset. If they feel connected to you through your empathy with their situation, it makes customers feel better and validated in their discontent.

  7. Apologize

    Offering a sincere apology for their inconvenience or disappointment is another opportunity for an empathetic connection. A genuine apology never makes a bad situation worse.

  8. No excuses

    Instead of offering up excuses, provide solutions. Communicate to them what you can do to remedy the situation instead of blaming it on the weather or the post office.

  9. Offer solutions

    When offering possible solutions, let them regain control by choosing the solution that makes them the most satisfied. It may be a replacement product, refund or free shipping on their next purchase. Give them viable solutions that offer value in exchange for their disappointment or inconvenience. Think win-win.

  10. Don't pass the buck

    Instead of transferring the customer from one department after another, especially if the issue isn't specifically handled by your department, offer to follow up on their behalf in order to resolve the issue. Either ask a team member to follow up with them or personally follow up with the customer.

Changing your mindset and attitude

It's very easy to fall into the trap of arguing back and forth. Do not take the bait.  

Gain the upper hand by remaining calm, really listening to the customer's issue and giving them a firm plan of action. From there, take the necessary action and follow up with the customer.

Make a follow-up call or send an email for their feedback. Even if the feedback remains on the negative side, most customers will appreciate the efforts made to set things right. 

If things escalate to the point of unacceptable behavior such as name calling or swearing, politely but firmly let them know you will end the call until they can calm down. Abusive behavior is inappropriate under any circumstance, even from customers.

Sometimes it's necessary to transfer the call to a supervisor or manager.  When this happens, make sure the manager is available to take the call. Avoid abandoning an angry customer into a voicemail, which will only make them angrier.

With practice, confidence and the true belief that the customer is your greatest asset and priority, it is possible to expertly turn customers from mad to glad.

Related Article: Turn the Tide: Reconstruct Negative Publicity to Your Benefit

Christine believes that every customer has a voice. She is the Community Manager at HissingKitty.com (a customer complaints website) and loves talking to customers on social media about their challenges with Fortune 500 companies. Her work has been published on Huffington Post, Inc., SocialMediaToday, and Thought Catalog.
Like the article? Sign up for more great content.Join our communityAlready a member?