How To Handle Angry Customers

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How To Handle Angry Customers

If you work in customer service, or have any customer/client facing role, you are likely at some point to encounter angry customers.

And they’re not just angry – they can also be irrational, impatient, unreasonable, and a little wild and personally aggressive towards you.

Handling these encounters effectively requires both emotional control and skill – and it’s very easy to trip up. So here are 5 tips for dealing with angry customers and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:

1. Stay Calm

Your best chance of calming the customer is for you to stay calm. Even when they are screaming and insulting, your job is to stay cool and rational. Fighting back will only escalate the session, so keep your head and just deal with it.

The main challenge with staying cool is when the anger is or seems to be directed personally at you. When we feel under attack, our natural instinct is either to run away (often not possible) or fight back. Fight or flight!

When trying to stay calm, it might help to take a step back and see yourself as a third person. It’s not about you – its about the customer and giving them what they need. Separate your feelings from the situation. Take yourself out of the firing line by staying calm and helping the customer as best you can. The more they see you are willing to help them rather than fight them, the more they will relax.

(Don’t be too calm and cool of course: that can appear dismissive. Try and be calm but engaged).

2. Use Your Best Listening Skills

The first need of angry customers is often just to vent their anger. Let them do this. Let them tell the story their way.

Listen carefully and actively to what they are saying without challenge, interruption or distraction. Show them you are listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and responding with affirmations (“yes”, “I see”, “uh huh”). Interruptions and challenges at this stage will only make them angrier.

Listen for the facts of the matter, but don’t rush ahead to craft your defence. Just listen. Try to identify what really made them so upset.

Show that you are eager to listen and understand by using positive, supporting questions such as “How else can I help you today?”. The phrasing is important in that it shows you are ready and willing to help: asking a question like “Is anything else wrong” is likely to lead to more tension and negativity.

3. Empathise

The second need of angry customers is validation. They need confirmation that they are entitled to feel angry and upset. Give them this validation by acknowledging both their concerns and their feelings. Acknowledge that they are right to be annoyed. Tell them you understand their frustration. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.

4. Apologise Gracefully

Sometimes an apology is all angry customers want to hear. Let them know that you are personally sorry that this has happened to them. Make it a proper apology even if you weren’t responsible for any failings! Remember – it’s not about you.

“We’re sorry that you feel that way” or “We’re sorry that you are having this problem” both sound like a dismissive deferment of blame and can be really infuriating to customers.

Just say you’re sorry, then move on from the blame game and justifications towards a solution. Moving towards a solution is sign of a genuine rather than a dismissive apology.

5. Accept Responsibility

Angry customers also need to feel that something is happening – that they are achieving something. Accept responsibility for making things better.

It doesn’t matter if you were personally at fault, and it doesn’t matter if the customer is being irrational or not. What matters is that the customer is talking to YOU and expecting YOU to help resolve the issue.

Don’t blame others. Don’t blame the process. Don’t make excuses. Don’t fight battles.

Focus on what you can do for angry customers rather than what you can’t. Find a solution. Take action. Get others to help as required. If you are not in a position to help them, help them progress the matter with somebody who can.

Suggest a resolution and check if that would help. Even if an opportunity is lost and you think there is no direct solution for that specific customer, think about how you can make things better for other customers. Sometimes it’s not just about the customer getting something for themselves – its about them feeling that they have achieved something.

At CX Training, we believe resolving difficult situations is the single biggest test of an individual’s emotional intelligence. Contact us on or 0404 266 174 to discuss your training needs for handling angry customers.