How to Handle an Angry Customer (12 Phone and Email-Friendly Tips)
It happens, but how you deal with it is more important. Here’s how to handle an angry customer
We’re going to discuss how to handle an angry customer, because no one wants to deal with disgruntled customers!
Whenever we roll out a massive update to our software, there’s inevitably people that get very upset. Things change on them, maybe things don’t work as expected (lord knows that’s happened to us several times)… there’s a number of reasons it can happen.
Getting an email or a phone call from unhappy people is never a fun task, especially when they have a right to be upset. Figuring out how to handle an angry customer during your conversation is an area where every business owner and sales rep should be very capable.
You also probably don’t expect to talk with an angry customer.
We all know it can happen, but it will likely take you by surprise when you answer the call. It’s not like you’re working at a call center (unless you are).
Before diving into our 12 tips for learning how to handle an angry customer, there are two things we’re going to assume for this post:
- That it is a client and they may have (at least a little) reason for being upset. Even though they could be a bit more level-headed, there is something valid about their concern. If there isn’t, it should just be a matter of communication.
- That this is going to be an email or phone conversation. We don’t usually have any angry customers go banging on our door. If we did, we’d have Damian (Chief Customer Officer) answer with his epic Viking beard to make sure things remain civil (just kidding).
Our tips for learning how to handle an angry customer are in a bit of an order, but you may not use all of them every time you interact with someone. You know your clientele best.
1: Understand Your Client(Base)
There is something we can all do to prepare for an angry call, before they actually happen.
Let’s say, you get your clients from all industries and walks of life. You’re a marketing agency that doesn’t care who the business is, you just want their business.
When someone calls upset, you have to take a minute to understand their business model and everything attached before you can even hear what they’re trying to tell you.
Narrowing down your target market doesn’t only help you convert a higher percentage of your leads — it also helps you care for them while they are your clients.
This simple act could be just enough to turn around the customer’s attitude.
You would be surprised to know what a powerful impact an active listener can have on the speaker. When you truly and sincerely listen (not hear) them out, it allows your client to let out steam and they’ll calm down considerably (most of the time).
And while the situation gets a bit more relaxed, you get some time to think of an effective solution.
“Customers are human and humans can view situations in unexpected ways.” ― Marilyn Suttle
3: Don’t Take It Personally
Unless you had a role in making the customer angry, the incident probably isn’t an attack on your character.
The client may be angry with the company or the things that affect him related to your company. Even if it’s your company, there is no reason to take anything personally.
How does this help?
When you take it personal, it is easier to get defensive as well as argumentative. Not to mention, the client will notice it in your tone.
It’s very difficult to cover irritation. Your demeanor could worsen an already bad situation.
So when you are close to losing it and react, tell yourself this isn’t about you.
(Hint: Don’t be like this meme)
Unless this angry customer who has called you up is deliberately trying to tick you off, he/she is of the belief that his/her request is reasonable.
Your clients know less about your company and business than you and if they knew more, they wouldn’t be using your services. To handle the situation, stop and think.
Take a moment and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. It is important to understand where they are coming from.
Empathizing can be difficult to wrap your head around, but it doesn’t require much effort.
It tends to have quite an impact on a seemingly uncontrollable situation. Someone who’s good at using empathy is like the best member of a bomb squad (great at defusing).
You release a lot of your customer’s tension when you let them know that you know and understand how they feel.
Bonus Resource: Here’s a great post from Psychology Today showing how to be empathetic.
5: Ask (the Right) Questions
Once you’ve calmed the situation down, it’s time to get to the bottom of what happened.
You need to ask them why they became upset in the first place. Find ground zero.
By asking good questions you show your clear interest in them and indicate that you are willing to know, listen, understand and possibly resolve their complaint.
Don’t ask questions that could rile them back up. Things like, “Why do you want us to reduce the price?”
That’s like cutting the right wire on the bomb, MacGyver-style, only to pour gas on a fire.
What is the background of the request they are putting forward? If the client is angry about an incident that occurred — ask for the details to get to the root cause.
If you want to know how to handle an angry customer, you first need to know WHY they’re angry.
6: Consider the Consequences
You understand why the client is upset and what they want you to do about it. Now, it’s time to weigh everything on the scales and decide whether you’re going to lose the customer or to eat the consequences of saying yes to their demands.
Granted, it’s rare to say a bold-faced “no”.
There are nuances, and your general presupposition is to “make it right”. There are times you won’t have a choice, if what they have asked for is downright impossible or against company policies.
If you fail to find an acceptable solution, it may be a goodbye (again, rare).
In the case of saying yes, you might be pulling an all-nighter, doing something you’d rather not like cutting your prices, etc.
Before you offer anything, it’s best to think about it.
7: Take It as a One-time Deal
One of your considerations should be that this client isn’t likely to repeat their anger.
If you fail to find an alternative that works out for you both and you don’t want to lose a client either, then it is alright to think of it as just one time.
Now you don’t want to make it a habit and will need to stress the fact that this is one-time only concession. Then, stick to it.
If asked again, stick to your guns on it. Anyone who does something like this is part of the 20% that’s giving you 80% of your headaches.
8: Tell Them What You’ll Do
Ok, there is a legit problem and you need to do something about it.
This is the point in the phone call when you tell them what you’re going to do. But don’t tell them everything.
Consider it a negotiation, but not to do as little as possible. You want to leave room to win them over (next step).
Example: Your client is upset because someone added a wrong digit to their Facebook Ad budget for two days before it was caught (by them). Very angry, very understandable. What do you do, hotshot?
Give them their money back? Ouch. Probably. Do it quickly and they’ll forget the incident ever happened, but it’s not over yet.
9: Deliver More
This tip does wonders toward restoring a broken relationship and building loyalty.
Deliver more than you promised over the phone. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out, but give the customer something unexpected.
A bad experience needs a good experience.
- You promised to solve his issue by Friday and get it resolved on Wednesday.
- Give them an extra service to go above and beyond.
- Send a gift card to a restaurant your client enjoys or has near them.
- Write a plain old apology and stick it in a professional card.
Doing something more than what you actually promised to do.
In case you just can’t say yes, make sure that you apologize.
If you were unable to satisfy your client and make them happy (even though the demand was impossible) — an apology could go a long way in preserving the relationship.
There are some suggestions floating around the blogosphere that you should never apologize (because it shows weakness). Saying sorry is the minimum acceptable response to a wrong toward anyone who has indeed been wronged.
The least you could do is apologize on behalf of your company.
11: Say Thank You (If You Part Ways)
Even if your client is being totally unreasonable and is leaving for wrong reasons, you had a relationship. There is a history together and the honorable thing to do is preserve that connection by thanking him/her for all of their past business.
It is not only good, but a rather smart thing to do.
When the customer cools down and knows due to your behavior that you are still on good terms, it might help bring that customer running back to you if they don’t find what they’re looking for elsewhere.
12: Follow up (If Possible)
It is very important to follow up in sales.
Angry customers are the same way. If you get off the phone and the person on the other end is still your client — mark your calendar to connect with them.
Just a small thoughtful gesture, a short call or email, to follow up. You’d be surprised at how much impact it has.
If you’ve tried all these things and you’re STILL wondering how to handle an angry customer, than it’s probably safe to assume you’re better off without them. The truth is, not all customers are worth saving.
Who was the angriest client you’ve ever dealt with? Have any tips on how to handle an angry customer that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
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