The Angriest Customers

Working with angry customers is a part of customer service that can’t be avoided. I write about working with angry customers fairly regularly and have a category devoted to it, but it is still a challenge to work with angry customers. A reader named Nancy emailed me today expressing the frustration she feels when she works with extremely angry customers who just won’t let her talk. Her frustration is certainly called for and it is a common one at that.

Out of all the challenges in customer service, working with customers who scream, yell, and curse is probably the biggest challenge. Most companies don’t tolerate the worst of these customers (they hang up), but what about the customer who is just really angry and isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong? How do you work with that customer?

Back in December 2007, I featured a two part guest post from Jennifer Harris, an employee at Ruby Receptionists. Her (great) advice is as follows:

  • Lower your voice. This will force the customer to lower his or her voice to hear you.
  • Provide a plan of action. Let the customer know what you can do and make it clear if you are doing anything special or going out of your way for that customer.

These are two great tips. I also find it useful to apologize to customers about the inconvenience and tell them that you are going to work with them to get their issues resolved. Ask them what they would like to happen to get the issue resolved (this works really well when customers are going on and on; simply ask, “Okay, what would you like us to do to get this issue resolved for you?” and go from there).

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you just have to talk while an angry customer is talking. If you lower your voice, you will usually be able to gain some control over the conversation. Once you have the customer listening, use your best active listening skills and positive language to come to a solution.

In almost all companies, angry customers are a fact of customer service life. It is important to not take the customer’s anger personally (it isn’t directed towards you specifically) and to do whatever you can to get the issue resolved. Even though some customers can’t be pleased, it is possible to work with a majority of customers who can start off angry and end up satisfied.

4 Responses to “The Angriest Customers”

  1. sara said:

    Feb 27, 09 at 11:58 am

    you make good points here. I’ll admit, I need to get better at lowering my voice sometimes.

    However, something I disagree with is when you say
    “Ask them what they would like to happen to get the issue resolved (this works really well when customers are going on and on; simply ask, “Okay, what would you like us to do to get this issue resolved for you?” and go from there).”

    If this were to be asked to customers at my company, we’d get unreasonable solutions from the customers which would cause them to be even more angry.

  2. Mark Henson said:

    Feb 28, 09 at 7:23 pm

    Nice tips about dealing with angry customers. I always wonder, though, why a company would have angry customers to begin with. Aside from the completely psychotic people (which are out there, I know), most people are angry because of a lack of focus on the customer at some point in their relationship.

    Dealing with angry customers is like paying the interest only part of a debt. Eventually you have to pay off the debt if you want to win in the long term. Find out why the customer is angry and fix THE problem, not just THEIR problem, so it doesn’t happen again.

  3. Dealing with angry customers said:

    Sep 27, 09 at 9:02 am

    […] Great advice from Service Untitled about how to calm down angry customers: […]

  4. Pat said:

    Sep 30, 09 at 10:38 pm

    @sara —

    “If this were to be asked to customers at my company, we’d get unreasonable solutions from the customers which would cause them to be even more angry.”

    How do you know? Many times people just want to know someone cares.

    Using what the customer asks can be a basis for partial solutions, including offering an alternative solution to the problem.