Best Practices for Managing Angry Customers

by Allison Doyle, CCM

We’ve all been there, stuck handling an angry customer – whether that anger is directed at you, your business, or even warranted, here are some of the best practices for managing angry customers and turning a conflict into an opportunity.

Stop and Listen

This might sound obvious, but the first step to managing an angry customer is to actually hear them out. Don’t try to interrupt (you probably wouldn’t get far anyway), but instead wait until they are done, acknowledge their points and the issue, and then talk through it with them in calm tone.

Be Understanding

Even if you disagree with why your customer is angry, acknowledge that you understand their position, and emphasize with their frustration. Establish a connection by sharing a time when you were confronted with a similar issue and were likewise upset. Explain how you handled the problem, and offer your assistance in handling the current issue.

Reassure and Reconnnect

When a customer is angry, he or she might think that you’re professional relationship is at its end. Reassure your customer that this is only a temporary issue and that it will not affect your long-term business relationship. Let your customer know that you are okay with the anger, and are willing to work through the issue in order to strengthen the relationship and figure out a solution.

Keep Your Cool and Communicate

Ask questions and do not start yelling back. Pretty soon even the most frustrated customer will run out of steam if you don’t feed the flames. Of course, there’s a balance between acting disinterested and uncaring, and showing that you are listening, aware of the issue, and willing to work through it. Keep calm and don’t be defensive. Use any time to think of questions that will uncover the underlying problems that might have led to the bad situation, such as misunderstandings, areas of improvement, or rumors your customer might have heard about you or your company.

If you’ve tried everything you can and you’re still not getting a positive response, you might need to return another day and remember that other factors—such as someone’s personal life, stresses, or work—might be feeding into their current mood and anger levels.

But in general, by following these best practices for managing angry customers, you will minimize any damage or frustration that might have occurred from the situation, and—in all likelihood—you will work to strengthen your overall professional relationship with the customer.