15 Entrepreneurs Share Tips on Dealing with Angry Customers

You can build a business without a lot of things on hand. Gone are the days of a physical location. You don’t need an entire crew to get going. Even your payroll can be handled by an online service. So what’s the one thing you absolutely must have in business? That’s where customers come in. If nobody buys your product, attended your classes, or reads your books then it’s not really a business. Keeping consumers happy is the name of the game. There are entire seminars dedicated to making sure people buying your product are happy with the service they’re receiving. So what happens when a customer does show their anger? We asked several of our entrepreneurs and business owners for their best tips on how you should react to an angry customer.

#1 – Admit the Mistake

Photo Credit: Ali Mirza
Photo Credit: Ali Mirza

I have dealt with many angry customers in my day, some mine and some customers of my clients. The best thing I have learnt to do is admit the mistake (if you have made one), and instantly look to rectify it. You do not need to give something away for free, people are typically looking for empathy and acknowledgment. If you can provide that right off the hop, you will be able to bypass majority of the yelling. If you have not made a mistake, the best thing to do is simply listen. Most of the time, the client will simply be frustrated due to something that has nothing to do with you. Once they have emptied the tank then you can calmly ask how you can fix the situation. Majority of the time, they will see you are not at fault and apologize and you can move forward.

Thanks to Ali Mirza, Rose Garden Consulting

#2 – Always Listen

No matter what the complaint is and even when you do not feel that you are responsible for the issue, pay attention to what the customer has to say and try to see their point of view before antagonizing them. Listening is the most important part of communicating. Angry customers usually want someone to listen to them and at least try to find a solution. You cannot properly move forward in conflict-resolution without listening. In doing so, you will build some rapport with the customer and you will both experience a smoother interaction. In most cases, an angry customer that feels respected will likely reciprocate when it is your turn to speak. Dealing with angry customers is a natural part of customer service and your goal should always be to de-escalate the conflict. Understanding and even agreeing with their point of view will work wonders. Even if the solution you provide is not exactly what the customer demanded, it makes it much easier for the customer to accept it if he/she feels that you were respectful and did everything you could to help.

Thanks to Mario Serna, Wonder Costumes

#3 – Have a Protocol in Place

Photo Credit: Lisa Chu
Photo Credit: Lisa Chu

Angry customers are sometimes very difficult to deal with, however if you have a protocol set in place it will help you respond and resolve the issue in a peaceful manner. The first thing is don't take it personally and remain clam. Do not respond in the same hostile manner as that will escalate the situation. Maintaining self control try to understand where the angry customer is coming from. Empathy will be very important when it comes to dealing with upset customers. Listen patiently to the customer's complaint and sympathize with their unpleasant experience. It doesn't matter if their complaint is legitimate or not, if you want the want them to stay a customer it's best to resolve the issue and keep them happy. Apologize on the behalf of your business and try to resolve the issue to the best of your ability. Remember there will always be upset or angry customers. Resolving the issue in a professional and polite manner will not only keep them as happy, but it help showcase your business as a company who puts their customers first.

Thanks to Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco Kids Clothing

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#4 – Don't be Reckless

Do not be reckless in responding to an angry customer. Let him/her finish what he/she wants to say. It always pays to listen. Always remember that there is a reason why the customer is angry. The best thing to do is to learn from it. Maybe there is something you could change in your business model. Maybe there is an employee that doesn't perform well. In the end, depending on the situation, you could always find ways to appease an angry customer like giving a refund, free coupons, or saying your apologies. But the best thing is that, if you listened with an open ear, you have another idea how to improve your business.

Thanks to Sophie Robinson, iClean-UK

#5 – Find a Quick Resolution

Photo Credit: Billie Blair
Photo Credit: Billie Blair

The best way to deal with people who have valid presenting problems is to get down to a resolution for the problem right away. Nothing annoys me more than a customer service person getting defensive and trying to argue that you don't really have a problem. Trust me, I and most people I know wouldn't be wasting our time calling in, if there was no problem! Arguing against the customer is definitely counterproductive. On the other hand, a good, smart problem solver can make everyone's problem – the customer's and the company's – go away quickly. So the tip is: Act like you work there and do the work required to solve the problem.

Thanks to Billie Blair, Change Strategists, Inc.

#6 – Allow them to Vent

Dealing with angry customers can be tricky especially if they are on the telephone or face to face. Angry customers usually feel that they are not being listened to. To resolve this my first tip would be to listen and let the customer vent their frustrations. Summarizing their concerns is a good way to make sure you understand the issue and lets the customer know you have heard and their concerns. Asking the customer what outcome they would like to have also helps them feel like you are listening to them and ready to resolve the issue. Many times what the customer wants can be done and others it cannot. Making a satisfactory compromise for a solution or a special exception just for them will also help to calm them down.

Thanks to Melissa O’'Neill, Bruno Sleep

#7 – Hear Every Reason

Photo Credit: Bob Holbrook
Photo Credit: Bob Holbrook

While each case is different, generally speaking when a Customer is angry, I recommend that you first … Listen. Hear them out. Hear every reason and nuance about their dissatisfaction. Then, ask this, What will make you happy. If it's reasonable do it and put the event behind you while allowing the customer to go away feeling as though in the end, they were satisfied, to some degree. Add to this, if a client is loud and disrupting business, ask them to come to a quiet place where you can sit and discuss the problem, because you want to hear all about it. Promise them you'll make sure they leave as happy as possible. Every case is different but most, can be handled in the way noted above. In cases whereas the company / you are liable due to what ever went wrong, than you must consider the next move based on exposure to potential legal repercussions.

Thanks to Bob Holbrook, Holbrook Marketing, Inc.

#8 – Take it Seriously

Photo Credit: Carmel Granahan
Photo Credit: Carmel Granahan

I've worked in various customer facing roles for over 15 years now and no matter how good the support / service is, they'll always be angry customers.The best way to deal with these somewhat ‘awkward' situations, is to listen and let the customer know that their problem is being taken seriously. Tone is vitally important here as you need to be polite but also be very assertive to show that you are indeed in control of the situation. Never ever mirror the confrontational behaviour you're witnessing. In situations where you cannot solve it right away, let them know that you will follow up within X number of days – and ensure you do it. Put it top of your ‘to-do' list.

Thanks to Carmel Granahan, OnePageCRM

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#9 – Ask Questions

Photo Credit: Steffen Ploeger
Photo Credit: Steffen Ploeger

I have attended a course once on how to deal with angry customers. It is simple. If you deal with an angry customer, the course mentioned that an angry customer is reverting to (as the course called it) a child-status. You want to ensure you can calm them down by asking them questions on how you can help them, and what they would like us to do to solve the problem. In the course, this was referred to as bringing them back to adult-status. I have tried this method many times and it works. Asking them questions means you are listening, *and* want to listen, and by asking what they would like us to do, you are trying to ensure they are heard. You are giving them an opportunity to seek resolution, and get want they wanted with these methods.

Thanks to Steffen Ploeger, 9thCO

#10 – Learn to Empathize

Photo Credit: Jessica Thiele
Photo Credit: Jessica Thiele

Empathize and stay calm: The best way of dealing with angry customers, or customers in distress, is to – above all else – remain calm. Educating front-line staff in your business on empathy and putting themselves in the customer's position is absolutely key to maintaining control and attempting to reinstate calm into a situation were a customer is angry. Provide training to reiterate that most customers in distress are simply venting external pressures onto the customer service representative, and that it's not personal. Approaching any unbalanced situation with this in mind goes miles when dealing with angry customers. And in the end, if all else is forgotten, remember that the worst possible thing any person can do when dealing with an angry customer is to *get angry back.*

Thanks to Jessica Thiele, Virtual Logistics Inc.

#11 – Stay Calm

Photo Credit: Nick Leighton
Photo Credit: Nick Leighton

Dealing with any angry customer is really a straightforward process that requires only two sentences. When a customer is angry, they want to vent, they want to know they are being heard and they need help. So, you need to calm the person down, listen to their concern and help them. Here’s how it works. First of all you use these words, and these words exactly – That’s interesting… tell me more.” What happens? The person who is angry stops and takes a beat. This is important as you know yourself, if you get really angry, it’s just difficult to stop and take a breath. These simple words also reassures the angry customer that you are listening and in fact you care to hear the cause of their concern. You want to help them – and that’s exactly what an angry person wants. Next, you have a choice of one of three questions – and which one you use is pretty obvious – ‘Why would you SAY that?’ or ‘Why would you DO that?’ or ‘Why would you ASK that?’ This works every time, with every type of angry customer.

Thanks to Nick Leighton, The Alternative Board Southern California

#12 – Lean In

Photo Credit: RJ Martino
Photo Credit: RJ Martino

I know it sounds crazy but we recommend that you give the customer what they want. Your reputation is valuable. All buyers are making decisions based on your online reputation. It is so easy to write an online review that the risk of an unhappy customer is exponentially as bad as it was 10 years ago.

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Thanks to RJ Martino, iProv

#13 – Fairness and Kindness

Photo Credit: Roberta Perry
Photo Credit: Roberta Perry

I have very rarely had to deal with angry or irate customers because we are in the business of feel good products, however, one particular event comes to mind. A 16 year old kid came in looking for a job and overheard someone mention our face scrub. Instead of getting a job (we weren't hiring) he bought a jar.  We got a phone call from the mom who was angry that her needing work son instead had spent money. I told her she could return it for a full refund. 3 days later they both came back. Instead of returning the jar, the mom bought 2 more. Apparently his face had cleared up better than it had with his prescription cream. It was a great moment. Address any issue with fairness and kindness. Always err on the side of great customer service at all times, because without your customers, you have no business.

Thanks to Roberta Perry, Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc.

#14 – Be Tactful

Photo Credit: Ryan Ballow
Photo Credit: Ryan Ballow

First, it depends on why they're angry. If a customer is angry because of a shortcoming in your service, product, or company, than you should express your apologies, as well as your inclination to fix the problem. If a customer is angry without a valid reason, than you should approach them with slightly less force than they are engaging, but with force enough to ensure they understand that you aren't going to take their disrespect. Typically, in situations like this, a customer is operating on some type of logical fallacy. They believed they were going to get something they didn't, they misinterpreted what they were going to get, or they are operating with some sort of vague assumption on some kind of detail of the transaction, like how much something should cost, as an example. The best way to deal with such a customer is to unyieldingly, but tactfully, state the logic behind the situation, identify where their logic might be incorrect (and thus why they may be unhappy or angry), and only THEN offer some kind of closure strategy.

Thanks to Ryan Ballow, Surrogate Labs

 #15 – Don't React Emotionally

In my personal experience, I have often seen my employees feel like they are being attacked personally when a customer speaks angrily (and often insultingly) to them. In such situations, it is important to remember that the customer is angry because the business did something wrong and that expression of anger is not targeted at the employee personally. Not taking things personally allows you to offer a calm and measured response. Secondly, angry customers primarily want to be heard and so you have to make them feel like they are being heard. Also, while it is easy to interrupt the customer and offer solutions, you need to be respectful and give them some time over phone or in-person. You can tell them what you can do to solve their problem but often the customer himself will tell you what you can do to restore the business relationship with them. For example – Do they want a repair done immediately? Do they want you to communicate clear timelines? and so on. Finally, it is important that you be transparent with the customer on what you can do to solve their problem. It makes no sense to over-promise and under-deliver especially when the customer is already angry. Instead, try to under-promise and over-deliver so you can restore customer delight and potentially turn detractors into promoters of your business.

Thanks to Abhishek Lal, VedSutra

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