Small Business Customer Service Advice

The Worst Way to Deal with an Angry Customer

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

When people are angry they are not in a fit state of mind to listen to logic or practical solutions to problems. That's why it's important to calm angry customers down before trying to find a resolution to their dilemma.

We all have to handle angry customers from time to time.

When a client gets difficult it can be a key cause of stress in the workplace. In addition they can use up vast amounts of time and the organization's resources. But don't worry, there are a quite a few techniques you can put into play when dealing with Mr or Mrs Irate. Perhaps the most important thing to examine first though is how not to handle the situation.

Here's what many people do wrong when trying to sort out a hostile and aggrieved client:

When they are faced with the angry customer they wrongly assume that customer's priority is to have the problem fixed. It seems logical and there is truth in it. But although a dissatisfied client wants you to solve things for them in a solid way, there's a little more to it all than that.

Sometimes a person who is really angry remains angry even after a problem has been solved. Why do they do this? It's because aside from wanting the problem resolved, they also need their emotional upset to be acknowledged and their ill feelings appeased.

The majority of people try to calm down angry customers with problem solving. The difficulty here is that when a customer is really angry, he/she isn't open to even the most logical or fair of suggestions. In fact they need to vent before they will be in a fit state to listen be open to allowing the situation to be rectified. The customer needs to be calmed down. Only then will they be able to listen and be part of a working solution.

Here's a useful hint:

Most conflicts that occur, in the home and the workplace alike, are the result of poor verbal communication. If you change the way you communicate so that you come across as more amenable and cooperative the rest will fall into place. Be more helpful and never be confrontational.

The results? Far less aggravated incidents, and fewer severe conflicts.

Follow this basic rule:

If you have to deal with a customer who is angry always focus on acknowledging their feelings and the nature of their upset first. Once they have begun to settle down (and they will once their feelings have been acknowledged) you can look at sorting out their issues in a practical manner. In the long run this approach is a time and resources saver.

Be mindful to use language that expresses empathy:

  • "It's understandable that you're upset, anyone would be. But let me see what I can do to help."
  • "I can't blame you for being angry; it's frustrating that for you that the product was faulty."
  • "I understand. I'd be angry too if I'd booked a hotel room and got let down."

Remember, feelings come first, fixing comes after. But you must always attend to both.

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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