How to deal with angry customers

Published: 20/01/2020

The prospect of dealing with an angry customer is tantamount to sticking pins in your eyes, we totally get it, it’s everyone’s worst nightmare. That being said, it’s part and parcel of working in a customer-facing role and unfortunately, it’ll happen to all of us at one point or another. 

Handle the situation wrong and chances are you’ve lost a customer and their future purchases, get it right and you’ll boost their loyalty to you. And remember, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold; they’re happy to pay more for your products or services, they’ll tell their friends and family about you, and they’ll ultimately help you grow and boost your bottom line. 

So, it’s important to arm yourself with the skills needed to deal with an angry customer and here, we’ve broken the process down into 11 easy to follow steps. 

1. Stay calm

Easier said than done, we know, but when a situation escalates and a customer starts getting heated or being rude there’s nothing to be gained by retaliating, in fact, you’ll likely make the situation worse. Despite how you might want to behave, practice self-control, breathe and take in what they’re saying. 

Remember: while we encourage a calm and polite response, you should never be subject to abuse from customers and if the situation gets out of hand you have every right to walk away.

2. Don’t take it personally

It might feel like their anger is directed at you, or they’re shouting at you, but the reality is their anger is towards the situation they’ve found themselves in not matching what they expected. So, just remember this isn’t a personal attack and don’t internalise their hostility or take it to heart.

3. Listen

First things first, an angry customer just wants to vent and if you’re the one to bear the brunt then it’s crucial you listen to what they’ve got to say. Listen patiently and demonstrate that you’re acknowledging their complaint and that you can diffuse the situation from the get-go. 

It’s a good idea when they’ve finished talking to reiterate what you’ve heard to ensure clarity and ask any questions that’ll help clear things up. A key element in a face-to-face situation is your body language, you should a) maintain eye-contact b) unfold your arms, and c) sit/stand-up straight to show you’re paying attention.

4. Sympathise

Now you’ve got to grips with the crux of the problem, you need to show you truly understand how they’re feeling, what’s happened and why they’re upset. Demonstrating both understanding and respect will go a long way to calming the situation down, and you do this by expressing sympathy for their unpleasant experience.

5. Say thank you

Did you just gasp? We know it’s not going to be your first instinct to thank someone who’s shouting in your face, but trust us it’s a good idea. Saying ‘thank you for bringing this issue to our attention’ or ‘thank you for voicing your concerns’ will demonstrate excellent customer service and go some way to building a rapport and smoothing out the problem. 

6. Apologise

Again, not the easiest thing to do when you’re amidst a confrontation and probably just want to run for the hills, but a simple ‘I’m sorry you’re not happy’ should be well received. At this point, it’s irrelevant whether their issue is legitimate or not, instead, you’re apologising in an attempt to a) diffuse the situation b) acknowledge their feelings, and c) keep them as a customer.

7. Chunk it

Chunking is a nifty little process whereby you take one big issue and break it down into bitesize chunks. They’re easier to handle and can help you to stay calm and deal with the task at hand. So, in the case of an angry customer try and divvy your response up into actionable tasks such as:

  • Calm them down 
  • Understand the problem 
  • Find a solution 
  • Make sure they’re happy with the outcome. 

By adopting the chunking process you should hopefully find the situation less overwhelming and find a solution sooner. 

8. Work to find a solution

We just mentioned it, but it’s worthy of its own point because ultimately it’s what’ll bring an end to the unpleasantries. It can be a good idea to ask your customer what they think would be a reasonable outcome and go from there. In cases where you’ve got a sneaking suspicion they’re making a mountain out of a molehill, offer what you see as a fair and realistic resolution to the issue. 

Whichever route you opt for, go through what’ll happen next step by step - spelling out what’s to come - to ensure clarity while putting the customer at ease.

Top tip: if at this point, despite your best efforts, the customer isn’t satisfied with any of your suggestions, it might be time to escalate the situation to someone more senior. Or if you’re top of the food chain bring the issue to a close regardless of whether a resolution was reached. In most cases, customers are willing and want to find a solution, but if someone’s taking the mickey you might need to put your foot down. 

9. Be sincere

Don’t you just hate it when someone’s blatantly fake? Well so do your customers. People can tell when they’re being patronised or getting scripted insincere responses, so make sure your tone of voice reflects that you’re taking them seriously, listening and being respectful.

10. Take a breather

Once the hostilities are over with, whether you came to a resolution or not, take a step back and look after yourself. Even if you think you handled it well or it came to a happy conclusion, dealing with someone’s anger is a stressful and emotional experience. 

You could take a short walk to clear your head, have a cup of tea and a snack to destress or go and find a trusted colleague and discuss what’s just happened. A bit of ‘me time’ will leave you feeling refreshed, calmer, and ready to engage with customers again.

11. Follow-up

This last step won’t apply to all situations, if you work in a shop, for example, you’ll rarely get the opportunity to check-in on your customer down the line. But, for those who deal with clients over the phone, you can take your customer service above and beyond by following up on an issue at a later date. 

A quick courtesy call to check everything’s okay, the situation is resolved and they’re happy with the outcome will really show you care and value their custom, which will ultimately boost the likelihood of them coming to you again. 

Something that can really rub consumers up the wrong way is when they can’t pay you the way they want to, in fact, Retail Week Connect found that 80% of shoppers are more likely to spend money with a business if they offer a quick and easy payment process, and that’s where we can help. 

Whether it’s your online payments, till systems or card machines that need bringing up to scratch, get in touch with our experts today on 08082 393254 to see what we can do for you.

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