Why Customers Get Angry
You are learning how to handle an angry customer because you know how quickly the spat could escalate. If you could, I bet you would rather they never get angry in the first place.
But we know that something will eventually happen that rubs a customer the wrong way. Common instances of this are when your product doesn’t work as it should.
We have seen this many times at LeadFuze when we rolled out major updates to our software. Any downtime inevitably gets customers 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 angry email or phone call from a customer is never a fun, especially when they have a right to be upset. Figuring out how to deal with an angry customer over the phone or during a conversation is an area where every business owner and sales rep should be excell.
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).
Sometimes a customer is just stressed by something happening at their workplace or in their private life. You don’t have to be the one who has upset the customer.
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:
- It is a client who 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 who 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 order, but you may not use all of them every time you interact with someone. You know your clientele best.
How To Deal With Angry Customers Without Losing Your Cool
1 Understand Your Client
You know how small arguments can escalate into a big conflict, sometimes ending up in the courts. As a salesman trained in how to handle angry customers, it should not get to that. But it could cost you the customer.
So how do you handle an upset customer without getting angry yourself? Here are 12 ways to deal with the situation civilly and tactfully:
There is something we can all do to prepare for an angry call, before they actually happen.
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. So it helps to know your customers.
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 personally, 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 the irritation. Your demeanor could worsen an already bad situation.
So when you are close to losing it and reacting, tell yourself this isn’t about you.
(Hint: Don’t be like the person in this angry customer 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.
If they are angry because they are struggling to use your product, it could be that your product is unnecessarily complex and hard to use. If you listened and tried to empathize, you could use this feedback to simplify the product and not have to deal with irate customers in the future.
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 to help you learn how to handle an angry customer using empathy.
5 Ask (the Right) Questions
Once you’ve calmed down the customer, 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 upset about an incident that occurred — ask for the details to get to the root cause.
So if you want to know how to handle an angry customer and prevent it happened again, 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. Do not make important decisions in the heat of the moment.
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, then it is alright to think of it as just one time.
Now you don’t want to make it a habit. You will need to stress the fact that this is a 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, because when a customer is angry and blames you for a loss they have suffered the only way to placate them is by making them whole again. Do it quickly and they’ll forget the incident ever happened.
But it’s not over just 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. 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 is near to them.
- Write a plain old apology and stick it in a professional card.
Do something more than what you actually promised to do and could end up with an impressed customer who is happier than before.
How do you handle an irate customer who won’t calm down unless you agree to an unreasonable demand that they are making?
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.
11Say Thank You (If You Part Ways)
Even if your client is being totally unreasonable and is leaving for the 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.
3 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.
Final Word – How To Handle An Angry Customer
If you’ve tried all these things and you’re STILL wondering how to handle an angry customer then it’s probably safe to assume you’re better off without them. The truth is that not all customers are worth saving.
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