4 Brilliant Tips for Dealing With Angry Customers
A couple years back, I worked as a customer service representative for a tech company. I enjoyed the work – talking to customers, helping them sort out any issues they were having with the company’s products. I understood the products well and loved hearing the delight in customer’s voices after their problem was resolved. I considered myself good at handling people, until I had my first experience with an irate customer.
Sure, most of the people who call customer support are usually unsatisfied about something. But most of them are usually calm and logical, looking for a solution rather than someone to berate.
Not this customer.
He started yelling angrily the moment I picked up the call. He went on and on about how our products were useless, how the whole company was a joke and how stupid the customer support (me) was.
This got to me and I felt the urge to shout back at him.
However, I knew the call was being recorded. Yelling back at him would put my job in jeopardy, therefore I simply let him yell until he ran out of steam and hung up.
If you work in a customer-facing role, it is inevitable that you will have to deal with an angry customer, if you haven’t already. The incidents will not be so many, but they will certainly be there.
For every single customer who complains about your product or service, there are 26 other customers who don’t voice their concerns, opting instead to take their business elsewhere.
Customers might get angry for a variety of reasons, some justified and some not – your products or services did not meet their expectations, they had incorrect assumptions that led to wrong expectations, the problem occurred at an inconvenient time, you name it.
If you want to be successful in business, you have to know how to deal with disgruntled customers, because they will always be there.
Whether you are dealing with the customer on phone or whether the angry customer is physically present, these situations are usually filled with stress and unpredictability that can easily result in disaster for your company.
You need to know how to deal with such situations tactfully in a way that minimizes the chances of a damaging outcome for your business.
Being prepared and knowing ahead of time what to do in such situations is the key to reaching outcomes with the least damage to your business. Below are four brilliant tips for dealing with angry customers.
USE THE CUSTOMER’S NAME
The first thing you should do when faced with an angry customer is to find out their name and use it to address the customer. This might sound odd.
What does a name have to do with an angry customer?
A person’s name is a very important thing to him or her. It forms a major part of their identity, of who they are.
According to Dale Carnegie, a famous American author,
“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
According to this research, hearing our name makes our brains ecstatic and causes some parts of the brain to light up. Note that this only happens when we hear our own name, not any other name. This shows how important a person’s name is.
By finding out and using the customer’s name, you are creating a great connection to their individuality and identity. You are humanizing the interaction between the two of you. Instead of the tricky situation being an interaction being between the company and a faceless customer, you turn it into a conversation between two people.
It shows that your care about the customer, that you respect that and recognize that they have a problem, which you are willing to find a solution to. This makes the customer feel important and plays a huge role in calming them down.
Therefore, whenever you encounter an angry customer, start by asking for their name and then use it when addressing him or her. Below is an example of how staff in customer-facing roles typically address complaining customers:
“I’m sorry for that sir! Let me see what I can do.”
“What can I do to help ma’am?”
“I can see why you are upset.”
Now, compare the above responses with the following statements:
“I’m sorry for that, Dave! Let me see what I can do.”
“What can I do to help, Chloe?”
“I can see why you are upset, Kelvin.”
The responses with the customer’s name sound a lot less formal and much more sincere than the responses where the customer is simply addressed as sir or madam.
This makes the customer feel like you actually understand their frustrations and that you are more invested in helping him or her solve their issue.
When you find yourself in an interaction with an angry person, with their anger directed at you, your brain’s first instinct is to get you into fight or flight mode. Your first urge is to either defend yourself or attack the person.
Resist any temptations to get into a vehement verbal sparring match with the customer. Doing so is both inefficient and ineffective – it won’t get you anywhere.
Actually, getting into a shouting match with the customer cannot lead to any positive outcome for you or the business. It does not matter if you make better points in the argument or if you yell louder than the angry customer.
You will only succeed in making the customer angrier, which is the last thing you want to do. If you want to calm the customer down and have a meaningful conversation, you have to remain calm yourself. Without remaining calm, it will be impossible for you to find out what their problem is.
Regardless of what the customer says to you, try not to get angry. Don’t let your ego get the better of you. Remain calm and professional and avoid yelling back at them or adopting an angry tone.
Sure, dealing with the angry customer might be frustrating, but you don’t want to give this impression to the customer.
Even if you are not yelling, you do not want the customer to think that you are disdained by their complaints, since this will only make them angrier and thwart any chances of meaningful communication.
Maintain a neutral expression as you engage with the customer and calmly show that you are interested in finding out more about their problem and finding a solution for it.
If you find it hard maintaining your calm, take deep, calm breaths until you start calming down.
Don’t make the breathing obvious to the customer, since it might come across as creepy. By displaying a calm and professional demeanor, the customer might be unconsciously compelled to mirror your attitude, thereby effectively calming him down. If the customer is shouting, a good idea is to ask him to speak slower.
According to a study published in the Science Daily, a loud voice is usually accompanied by faster speech. By asking the customer to slow down his speech, he will automatically and subconsciously lower his voice and become calmer. Request the customer to speak slower as many times as necessary until he starts calming down.
Another great tactic for remaining calm and calming down a customer is to ask questions. Instead of trying to show them why they are wrong, ask questions that require them to focus on the facts.
Ask how they would like you to assist or seek clarification for some details in their story. Most times, the customer’s anger is a result of the emotional response associated with the inconvenience caused by your products or services.
By asking factual questions, you shift the client from the emotional aspect of their complaint to a more objective view that is focused on finding a solution rather than complaining.
You should also learn not to take things personally when dealing with an angry customer. Keep in mind that the customer is not angry with you. They are angry because they are dissatisfied with a certain aspect of your products or services.
In their anger, the client might not be keen about their choice of language, which means that a lot of their displeasure might be directed at you.
Even if they are addressing you, you have to remind yourself that they are actually talking about the company and not you as an individual. Keeping this in mind will make it easier for you to remain calm in such a situation.
Another thing you should avoid here is trying to place the blame on the customer. There are many situations where customers will angrily complain about something that is entirely their fault.
However, placing the blame on an angry customer will only make him more irate and will push him away from your company. He might actually turn into a crusader against your business.
A research by Esteban Kolsky shows that 13% of unhappy customers will share their bad experience with 15 or more people. This is not good for your business. If you think the problem is their fault, calmly explain the company’s policy for dealing with such issues without directly putting the blame on the customer.
APOLOGIZE TO THE CUSTOMER
There are several reasons why a customer might be angry. In some cases, the reason behind the customer’s anger will be your (the company’s) fault. For instance, their delivery might have been bungled, they might have received a product that is not working, your service might have crashed at a crucial moment, a member of staff might have treated them badly, and so on.
In other cases, the customer’s anger might be due to reasons outside the company’s control. Probably the customer dropped their product in water or did something else that damaged the product, they might not have followed the manual, they had wrong expectations of the product, or maybe the customer is just having a bad day and is complaining about a non-issue.
If the fault is not something under your control, you might be tempted to tell the customer that it was not your fault. Regardless of the reason behind the customer’s anger, you need to apologize to the customer.
Apologize for something that is not your fault? You might be wondering why on earth you would do that. Well, here’s the thing. If you in a customer facing role, you are the face of the company. You are its ears, its eyes and its mouth.
To the angry customer, you are the company, and they believe that the company has wronged them.
Therefore, regardless of whether you were involved in whatever angered the customer or not, you need to apologize to the customer on behalf of the company.
When giving an apology, you need to watch out for the kind of language you use. If the customer’s concern is the fault of the company, you should apologize and take responsibility for your (the company’s) mistake.
For example, if a customer is complaining because an order was sent to the wrong address, you could say, “I’m sorry that the order was sent to the wrong address. It must have been a mistake on the part of our dispatch team. Let me see what we can do to make up for the inconvenience.” Note that in this apology, you are accepting the blame for the mistake.
On the other hand, if you determine that the customer’s concern is not the company’s fault, you should issue an apology for the situation the customer is going through while being careful not to accept the blame.
For example, if the customer bought a computer from you but then dropped it, causing it to stop working, this is clearly not the company’s fault. In such a situation, you should apologize for what they are going through and then calmly explain the company’s policy for dealing with such issues, again without directly putting the blame on the customer.
For instance, you might say,
“I’m sorry about the fact that your computer is not working. I understand that this is a great inconvenience for you. However, our warranty only covers manufacturer defects.”
Note that this apology does not assume responsibility for the customer’s concern.
Why is apologizing important? Many times, angry customers are not looking for a refund or a special bonus because the company has made a mistake, especially if the mistake has only slightly inconvenienced them.
They just want the company to acknowledge the mistake and apologize for it. According to a research by the Nottingham School of Economics, angry customers are more likely to forgive a company that issues an apology compared to one that offers financial compensation for an inconvenience.
According to the research, 45% of customers who received an apology for a delay in delivery withdrew their negative review of the company, compared to only 23% of customers who were offered financial compensation.
Therefore, before you pull out your checkbook in an attempt to appease an angry customer, try giving them a simple “sorry for the mistake.” Not only is it more effective, it is also a lot cheaper.
MAKE THE CUSTOMER FEEL HEARD
Another great way to calm down an angry customer is to make them feel heard and understood. An angry customer is already in a highly emotional state. Regardless of the reason behind their anger, they believe that they have been wronged and that their concerns are valid.
By complaining to you, they not only want you to solve the problem, but also to understand the pain and frustration you have put them through.
If you rush to solve the problem, they might feel that their pain and frustration is being ignored, which might make even more upset. Therefore, before you start proposing solutions, you need to make the customer feel heard and understood.
To make the customer feel heard and understood, you will need to use your best listening skills. Since the customer probably wants to vent, you should give them the time to rant. Be patient and hear them out.
Even if they say something that does not add up, resist the urge to interrupt them. Like pouring gasoline on a raging fire, interrupting an angry customer will only make them madder.
At the same time, you don’t want the customer to feel like they are talking to themselves, especially when they are complaining on phone where they can’t see you. As they talk, encourage them with verbal prompts to show that you are still listening. Use words such as “okay,” “uh huh,” and “oh, I see.”
This gives them the assurance that you are paying attention to what they are saying and makes them feel like you want to know the whole story.
Once they are done venting, you need to make it clear to the customer that you have actually heard and understood their concerns. Show the customer that were justified in raising their concerns. You can do this through reassuring statements, such as,
“I can certainly understand why you are upset,” or “calling us was the right thing to do.”
Another way to show the customer that you were paying attention is to repeat the problem back to the customer. As you do this, you need to acknowledge not only the facts of the situation, but also how they made the customer feel. For instance, you might say,
“I know it must have been frustrating and inconveniencing for you not to receive the product when you were expecting it.”
If something about their complaint feels a little unclear, ask questions to make sure you fully understand their complaint. Once the customer realizes that you actually care about their problem and how it made them feel, they are more likely to calm down and give you the space to come up with a solution for their problem.
In addition to helping them calm down, listening to an angry customer can also be beneficial to your business. First, listening to an angry customer provides you with an opportunity to learn something valuable from the customer. Angry people are some of the most honest people you will ever come across. An angry customer does not care about your feelings, which means that they will tell you things as they are.
Instead of treating their rant as a nuisance, think of it as valuable customer feedback. Their complaint might help you discover an element of your product that you overlooked or internal processes that need to be fixed. This provides you with opportunities to make improvements, which is something every business should be doing.
In addition, acknowledging and implementing something suggested by a customer will make the customer feel valued and can even turn them into a loyal devotee of your brand.
Secondly, listening to an angry customer might also provide you with a chance to teach something valuable to the customer. As you listen to the customer’s rant and ask questions to further understand their problem, you might realize that the functionality they are complaining about is actually available elsewhere in your product, or that they have a misconception about your product.
This makes it easier for you to solve their problem and convert them into a loyal customer. This might also help you realize that you have been positioning your product incorrectly, thus giving you an opportunity to re-strategize your product positioning and attract even more customers.
If you work in a customer-facing role, it is inevitable that you will have to deal with an angry customer at some point. While such situations are usually characterized by stress and predictability, the 4 tips shared in this article can help to tactfully deal with the situation and minimize the chances of a damaging outcome for your business.
When you encounter an angry customer, you should first use their name to create a connection with them and make them feel special. Despite anything the customer says, you should always maintain your cool.
Offer an apology to the customer and ensure that you make them feel heard and understood. Once you learn to utilize these 4 tips, you will no longer be unnerved by an angry customer.