How to Deal with Angry Customers: A Comprehensive Guide

Running a small business is very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. Especially when you’re not sure how to deal with angry customers.

Why do customers get angry?

Sometimes customers catch us off guard. Your cable being out doesn’t seem, to an outsider, to be a minor inconvenience, not something to yell about. Yet customers frequently get very angry with customer service representatives. They scream they cuss, they call you names, hang up and call again, etc.. Sometimes we go with the understanding that there are outside influences, negative impacts to the their day that lead them up to getting angry with whoever answers their phone call. Yet, that doesn’t seem quite right. Why is that customer service representatives become the target to so much anger?

how do call answering services work?

How to deal with angry customers: find out why they are angry to begin withWhen we get right down to it, the psychology of it comes down to this: customers get angry when they feel like they’re being disrespected. Be it their time, money, or intelligence, they don’t like feeling like a company is pulling one over on them.

Customers get angry when their time is being disrespected.

You’ll notice that at times, customers seem to be angry with you before you’ve uttered a single word. Why are they so angry? Well, lets start with this: do you have an automated service  that requires them to press buttons after many prompts, rather than allowing them to speak directly with a customer service representative? After the customer goes through automated customer service prompts, are they able to get a hold of someone quickly, or do you need to do something to reduce call wait times?

People don’t like waiting on the phone for long. If they need someone to solve a problem that they’ve been having, they may feel like any amount of time is too long. In their minds, they feel like your product or service should work well enough so that they shouldn’t have to make these calls in the first place. If their customer service issue isn’t addressed and solved quickly. it can go downhill at a rapid pace.

Customers get angry when their dignity is being disrespected.

We all want to think that it’s “the other guy’s” employees who are disrespectful to clients. It’s hard to admit when you didn’t hire quality employees, after all. Sometimes a good receptionist can even get tired after a long day of dealing with irritable customers and say something a little off-color. Or, an angry customer can misunderstand a certain tone of voice. There are many ways in which a customer can feel like they are not being treated as a valued customer and this disrespects their dignity.

Customers get angry when they feel their intelligence is being disrespected.

Few people like to feel like they’ve been manipulated, or worse, bamboozled into a sale. A salesperson can sometime give wrong information. It’s not to say that they aren’t a good employee or that they weren’t trained well. But, for example, if a salesman told them that their warranty worked one way and they to find out by a customer service rep that it works out another, they’ll feel cheated and scammed. They’re likely to take that out on you because you’re the one on the line. Though you know that you can’t change the way that they were initially sold the product or service, you can do some damage control by saying some of the right things. We’ll touch on those later.

Ways to keep your cool

It’s not always easy to keep your cool at work. Especially on the phone, since call center employees often take a verbal beating. Try out the following ways to keep your cool when you must deal with angry customers.

1. Pause.

Take a moment to think out an appropriate response before reacting to customers that make you angry. Take a breath and think before you speak. Sometimes you may even need to hit the mute button, take a deep sigh, and then continue listening to the caller. Take it easy and don’t let their bad mood effect yours.

How to deal with angry customers: don't take it personally

2. Make your desk your happy place.

training employees: small business computer

Have some personal items in your workspace to remind you of happy moments, places and people in your life. You’ll have something positive in your line of view even while listening to a person who is speaking to you in a way that’s less than kind.

3. Vent to a person or to paper.

limit phone distractions by hiring a virtual receptionist

Sometimes you just need to get your frustrations out after someone has let all of their frustrations out on you. Talk it out with a trusted colleague during your next break or write it out.

Ways to respond

1. Listen Actively

It’s not enough to catch a couple of phrases when a customer is venting yo you about and issue that they have been experiencing with the product or service that you represent. You’ll have to give them your full attention and be sure that the only one repeating anything is you: confirming spellings, numbers, and that you understand where their issues lie. Take it from this customer service rep at LiveChat:

How to deal with angry customers: listen activelyAfter listening to what it is that has been upsetting them, sympathize and apologize. Start off by making them feel heard.

2. Use the Caller’s Name

Remember back when we wrote that exhaustive email etiquette post? We said it then and we’ll say it again: it’s important to use someone’s first name when addressing them. When you use someone’s name, whether it is on the phone or through email, you make the interaction for personal and more comfortable for the other person.

What makes a name so important quote

3. Smile When You Speak

This might sound a little silly. Believe it or not, this is something that may help you a lot when learning how to deal with angry customers. In fact, when learning how to be a good receptionist, this is something they learn first! When you smile, the chemicals go off in your brain that make you feel happier and more relaxed. It will take the edge off, even if it may be difficult at first.

How to deal with angry customers: smile

3.  Give them Options

If they make a big ask that you cannot fulfill, try giving them another option that is similar. Can’t reinstate the 20% off welcoming rate? Let them know that there are other discount options that may be pleasing to them. Many angry customers feel disrespected, like I mentioned earlier, and just would like a say in the matter. Look for ways that they can make a choice in their situation.

How to deal with angry customers: give them options

4. Go the Extra Mile

You should do all within your power to make sure that the customer isn’t getting off the phone still unhappy. Every customer is valuable and should be treated as such. After a customer has been angry with you and the two of you then find a solution, ask them if there is anything else that you can help them with. They might even feel bad for yelling at you. How to handle angry customers: go the extra mile

How to Deal with Angry Customers: Key Phrases to Remember

Keep these phrases in your back pocket for when you can’t remember how to deal with angry customers.

How to reduce call wait time

Things to keep in mind

  • Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you.
  • Your mood should not dictate your manners.
  • If we don’t take care of the customer, another business will.
  • Please and Thank you are still magic words.
  • There are two sides to every story.

Live call answering services
Things to say to the customer

  • “I’m sorry for the trouble this has caused you”
  • “I understand why it is that you’re frustrated”
  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “Let me see if I have this right…”
  • “Let’s work together to find a solution”
  • “Here’s what I’m going to do for you…”
  • “I want to take care of this for you immediately.”
  • “Do you think this solution will work for you?”
  • “As an immediate solution, I’d like to suggest…we can then follow up with…”
  • “I’m more than happy to help you with this.”
  • “If I can’t help you, I know who can.”
  • “Thank you (for being patient, for bringing this to my attention, etc.)

Things not to do when finding out how to deal with angry customers

Things to avoid saying

  • “Calm down.”
  • “Listen to me.”
  • “What you should do is…”
  • “I’m not sure what to do here.”
  • “This isn’t my department.”
  • “You did that wrong.”
  • “You’re the first to complain about this.”
  • “Will you please let me explain?”

Do you notice some major differences between what to say and what not to? Make sure you use “we” or “I” phrases when talking about a solution and never make any accusatory statements. Don’t bother with pushing to get words in, the caller who is frustrated wants to be heard more than listen. If you’d like to know more, check out a key words that are helpful when figuring out how to deal with angry customers.

training employees image via www.homethods.com

Possible Outcomes if your Team is not Taught How to Deal with Angry Customers Well

Damaged Reputation

Remember: a customer that gets off the phone angry can quickly and easily tell all of their friends negative things about your company through social media. You don’t only run the risk of losing one customer. You could lose a myriad of potential customers through the process if this customer chooses to tarnish your company’s reputation.

Loss of Sales

Your customer may decide to take their business elsewhere. To your competitors. I shudder at the thought!

Unhappy Staff

No one likes being yelled at. Having plans and standard operation procedures in place won’t stop angry people from eventually giving your business a call, but it will give your employees the confidence to deal with these types of people in stride.


Apply this to your small business

The easiest way we’ve found to remember how to deal with angry customers is by using the L.A.S.T. method. The acronym corresponds with the steps to take action, which are Listen, Apologize, Solve and Thank.

Listen to their problem. Remember active listening? Show them you’re listening to them by repeating back what the customer has said. “So, what you’re saying is…”

Apologize for their experience. You don’t need your company to necessarily take the blame for the situation. Just apologize for the inconvenience that they have encountered.

Solve the problem. If you know what to do to solve the problem, tell them: “Here’s what we’re going to do to help you…” and then explain the solution to them. If it is not something you’re familiar with, tell them that you aren’t sure how to deal with this specific problem, but that our manager/coworker may know. You’re helping to solve the problem by leading the caller to the right person to ask.

Thank them. If no one ever called to complain, you’d be left with a faulty product or service. Because of this, you should thank the caller for bringing this issue to your attention.

Now, give this a try:

  • Keep a list of the phrases to remember to think, say, and not to say near your desk.
  • Make your desk your happy place.
  • Bookmark this post to refer to later.
  • Remember the L.A.S.T. method. This video should help:
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