43 1/2 Tips for Handling Angry Customers

Another one of my favorite type of posts, where I get to share and learn with some many experts! Here’s my tip. I'm calling it a tip and a half—because it applies to everyone—not just angry customers.

We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior. To overcome conflict, or even avoid conflict completely, look beyond the other person’s BEHAVIOR to see their positive INTENTION.

Have a great day whatever your adventure

To Life! To Success!



1. De-escalate, De-fuse, Delight

Many customers who are upset have very low expectations of resolution to their satisfaction. Accordingly if you do almost anything for them you are exceeding their expectations. 1) Listen to them without interrupting. (De-escalate) 2) Ask them for as much detailed information that you can. (De-fuse) 3)Then reiterate back to them what happened - illustrating your understanding, (if you were wrong) let them know it is not representative of how you do business, apologize, and make it right. (Delight)
Thanks to: Mitch Pisik of Breckwell Products.

2. No Buts About It!

Eliminating the word BUT from your vocabulary will increase your chances of calming unhappy clients Anger tends to fuel the brain and words start to ramble without hesitaion. Once the words stop flowing the client then waits for a responce and only to hear, we understand BUT which negates everything the person has just said leaving the individual feeling more frustrated and misunderstood. To replace BUT with the word AND always has a more soothing effect. We understand AND we find in the past..
Thanks to: Sara Canuso of A Suitable Solution.

3. Kill Them With Kindness

I've been in customer service for 17 years at various jobs and now I own a cafe. The absolute best way to deal with an angry customer: KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS! Listen to what they have to say, repeat back to them the facts as they relay it to you and then let them know what you're going to do to make it better for them. But above all else, even when they're yelling just be so darned nice that it makes them being a total asshole so very hard when talking to someone so unbearably nice as me.
Thanks to: Sarah Redman of Carrot's Coffee & Tea.

4. Sincere Apology

After many years in the customer service field I have found that a sincere apology to the customer for being upset calms better than any other strategy. All people want their feelings acknowledged.
Thanks to: Laurie Smith of Jewelry Vault.

5. "You are right"

When an angry customer is venting, a key emotion is their need to feel heard. I have found looking them in the eye, and honestly and sincerely saying "You are right" takes a lot of steam out of their anger. I mean, how can they respond to that? "No! I am NOT right!"

They may not be totally right about everything they are angry about - but most people get angry as a last resort, not a first resort. Until you get rid of the anger, you can't begin to resolve the issue.
Thanks to: Jennifer Leake of Consultants Gold, Inc..

6. Shut Up & Listen

Let the customer air their grievance fully before responding. Actively listen while they tell their whole story even if they start to rant. Sometimes they just need to vent plus you have the opportunity to hear what they want or need to turn the situation around. If you interrupt them before they are finished, you might not know the whole story, you might miss valuable clues, and you might just tick them off more.
Thanks to: Patricia Fragen of Strategic Office Solutions.

7. Facial Anatomy Holds the Key

Have a really angry customer/client? Look in the mirror. The Good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth. Follow His lead. Listen twice as much as you speak. And when you begin to speak, don't patronize. Give direct answers. Don't make any promises you can't keep. If you say you'll get back to the person, get back to them - quickly! If it turns out there is nothing you can do, tell them. Any answer is better than none. And remember, sometimes it's a positive to lose a client!
Thanks to: Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd..

8. Turn them into allies

I always try turn them into customers that are impressed with my service. The reason for this is that angry customers like to talk. They like to complain and spread the bad news to everyone. So if I impress THEM – really shock them with something they did not expect (“customer astonishment”) – then I can be sure that they will pass on those news as well.

So my recipe is – turn angry customers into allies who recommend your great customer service. Whatever it takes.

Thanks to: Anja Schuetz of Poker Cards For Managers.

9. Stay firm.

I recommend standing firm versus the typical 'whatever the customer wants' solution. In an extreme example I have a repeat customer who loved to immediately burst into expletives when he is angry. I started trying kindness to appease, then one day fired back in the same manner. The business and loyalty with this customer has increased. Sometimes anger is an attempt to exploit or test your resolve. Don't immediately become a customer's puppet in challenging situations.
Thanks to: Bo Hammond of Company Lumber Company.

10. Diffusing an Angry Client

Think about how you feel when you're angry. Something is pent up that just needs to be released. Know that others feel the same. Give them that opportunity by saying, "Tell me how you're feeling about all of this." Once they get it all out, they'll most likely calm down enough for you to work out a solution together. Some will even thank you for letting them vent and be open to whatever solutions you can start with.
Thanks to: Tom Hopkins of Tom Hopkins International, Inc..

11. Let them Vent!

The best tip I've used is to just let the customer vent for as long as it takes them. Do not interrupt and really listen to what their concern is. Take notes as they are talking so that you can work with the actual concern and not the anger part. After they are done, tell them you appreciate their concern and you are going to help them. Then paraphrase what their concern is from the notes you took so they knew you were listening. Never engage an angry customer...just listen!
Thanks to: Carolyn Berg of CyberOffice Solutions, LLC.

12. Communication Is Not Overrated

Always communicate with your customers and be upfront about everything in the beginning just so you can be on the same page. But if the customer is the one breaking the contract or not paying you for work you did then you don't need to be afraid to fire that customer. Those types of customers can end up costing you more time and money.

It's one thing when a customer is angry because of your mistake but it's another when they are just angry to be angry...
Thanks to: Ashley Bodi of BusinessBeware.Biz.

13. Defusing Anger

When someone is angry they want to know that they have been heard. Therefore, first you should reflect back to the customer your understanding of why they are upset. Next, validate their perspective by finding some truth in what they are saying and identifying with their position in the matter. Next ask the customer what their expectations are for resolving the issue. Then you can focus on problem-solving and potential solutions that fit within the policies of your organization.
Thanks to: Chris Polizzi of Chris S. Polizzi, Psy.D..

14. Be all ears!

Listen, Shut your mouth! Validate how they feel, say, I believe you, I understand, I would feel the same way, wait for them to pause, If a quick fix is out of the question, ask, while offering a solution is better and never get defensive! Getting defensive will not help you, or the customer you are trying to keep.
If a customer is abusive, or threatning,and escalating, have the customer removed. Protect yourself, and your employees. Have plan in place, someone call 911.
Thanks to: Gayle Dunning.

15. Founder

When dealing with an angry customer realize that their anger is more a factor of feeling helpless to fix the situation they find themselves in. They are powerless. You the company hold all the power.

So when dealing with them, be helpful and most importantly, be human. It is amazing how just knowing they are dealing with a human trying to be helpful will lower their blood pressure and give you time to deal with the situation properly.
Thanks to: Tom Martin of Converse Digital.

16. Avoid argumentation

As a relationship expert, my ONE tip is: avoid argumentation. Arguing back with an angry customer escalates the situation and further entrenches the angry person in their negative mindset. This DOESN'T mean submitting oneself to abuse. But by simply listening and saying, "I'm sorry you've had this experience. What can I do to make this better?" the situation gets diffused quickly and you can move into problem solving mode.
Thanks to: Cyndi Briggs.

17. "I'll know it when I see it"

Many clients get angry over a highly subjective topic-creative. I've learned to nip "I'll know it when I see it" in the bud. Asking the right questions up front can minimize these situations. Listening carefully during initial meetings can reveal whether the prospect is serious about brand building or playing the role of "guest creative director." If a client doesn't trust, the creative process can be endless. Follow your instincts and avoid angry people that may not know what they want.
Thanks to: Jack Macholl of Wisdom Bridge Marketing L.L.C..

18. Defuse

My one best tip for dealing with an angry customer’s behavior is to acknowledge the anger, listen and offer a solution.
Thanks to: Evan Shorten, CFP® of Paragon Financial Partners.

19. Get on the same side.

Always stand beside a customer when discussing the problem. Confrontation is more likely to escalate if you are standing face to face rather than standing side by side. Look the the problem in front of you, understand the problem, understand their anger, and then focus the anger on the problem and discuss how that problem that made the customer angry is going to be delt with. Give them an honest solution about what you are going to do to help fix the problem but never 'promise' anything.
Thanks to: Sean Jordan of Love Clients.

20. Angry customers

Behavior (what you are doing) matters but how you are being matters more. If you are defensive, you are going to escalate the situation. If you are truly open to helping and want to resolve it, anger will dissipate sooner. APOLOGIZE for their trouble. Research in litigation shows that being heard is more important than results. That is, people would rather have their story heard & get a sincere apology than win their case. The KEY is that the apology must be sincere, so should desire to help.
Thanks to: Kim Wright of Cutting Edge Law.

21. Listening is Loving

My best tip on how to deal with an angry customer’s behavior is to listen attentively with no preconceived notions or judgments; treat them with the respect every person deserves; genuinely care about their problem; and offer to help them in whatever way you can without compromising the organization’s core values. Oh! And follow up with them in a few days to make sure their needs have been met.
Thanks to: Beverly Floyd of The Corporate Vine.

22. You've Got 2 Ears & 1 Mouth

It's often said there's a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. When a customer is angry, it's best to listen more than you speak. Such encounters shouldn't end with customers walking away feeling like no one even cared to listen. Allow the customer to vent and then chime in with solutions instead of excuses. This is guaranteed to score major points with even the most dissatisfied of customers.
Thanks to: Elton Taylor of Longview Partnership.

23. Have an angry customer?

One thing that usually works is to agree with the customer that your firm made a mistake, then offer a way to make it right.

“I agree Mr. Smith, we could have done a lot better job of taking care of this problem. So let’s get past this and tell me what we can do to make this right and continue our relationship.”

Most reasonable customers would agree to work something out with you.

Thanks to: Steve Turner of Solomon/Turner PR.

24. Never Say

My best tip is to never say "I understand" because that only makes things worse.

Listen, apologize and ask how you can make it right. That fixes the problem 90% of the time - the other 10% I'm pretty much convinced can't be fixed and didn't want a solution in the first place.
Thanks to: Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems.

25. Rebalance Anger - Use respect

The Key: Keeping customers (and ourselves)
from taking things personally.

-Taking things personally comes from
perceived rejection
-Rejection = disrespect
-Anger is protection from hurt
-Rebalance:Radiate respect to angry

-Focus on something you appreciate
about the person (voice, spunk, color
-Focus on this quality in your interactions
-Respect will show in your eyes/voice/attitude
-Energy is reciprocal-you'll get respect back from

Thanks to: Elayne Savage, PhD of The Queen of Rejection.

26. Keep your cool

If you can remain calm and let your angry customer rant and rave, letting them say everything that they want to say, and accept that they are unhappy, then you can begin to help them. Your customer needs to be heard. Only then can they hear.
Thanks to: Ernest Adams of Ernest Adams, Connecticut J. P..

27. Angry Docs, Angry Patients

LISTEN! Then, don’t invalidate their concerns.

This is all 1 point. As a hospital administrator, I dealt with angry patients and primadonna (read angry) doctors daily. The angry customer wants to be heard. Loudly and Clearly. You need to hear it ALL and summarize what they have said. Then you need to offer a solution, whether real (I will have you transferred to another floor) or a non-denial denial (Everyone hates their insurance.)

And watch your body language!
Thanks to: Marcia Finberg of Your Phoenix Office.

28. Let's be partners!

The best way to start to talk them down is to find something they are saying that you can agree with, like "I can understand that you are upset" and then go on to ask them "how can we fix this" or "what do you think we should do about this?", which is having them be part of the solution with you rather than asking you to be the one to fix it. I think you will find a lot of the anger will dissipate if we become partners in the problem AND the solution! We cannot think and feel at the same time!
Thanks to: Robin Siebold of Robin Siebold, Ph.D., P.A..

29. Don't Talk - Just Listen

The customer may not always be right, but he/she has certainly got a right to be heard. The best thing anyone can do when someone else is upset and ranting is to just shut up and listen. Sometimes, the customer just needs to let off steam; sometimes they come up with the solution themselves; sometimes they realize they're being unrealistic. But if you're talking, you can't hear that.
Thanks to: Phyllis Harber-Murphy of More Than 9 2 5 Virtual Assistance.

30. Take The High Road

Smile and be polite, nothing good ever comes from trying to fuel fire with fire, instead, put it out with some sugar. Take the high road, and act as if the customer/client is always right. You know inside your gut if that's true or not.
Thanks to: Samantha Lefkowitz of Freelance Writer.

31. Don't Try to Stop It

The single best tip I know for dealing with an angry customer is to simply let them vent, without interrupting. Let them get it all out and listen sympathetically. Once they've finished venting, you will usually hear them sigh. Which is your cue to speak.
Thanks to: Barry Maher of Barry Maher & Associates.

32. Great Conflict Resolution

It is imperative to listen to the customer until they are done without interrupting them. You then ask them if there is anything else and then restate the complaint to make sure that you have it. Then ask them in what way can we resolve this problem and do whatever is within your authority to solve it. This gives the customer respect and what they want which is to be heard.
Thanks to: John Wilder of Marriage Coaching Service.

33. Use humor: laugh at yourself

Catalogs.com transitioned credit card processing to a new provider. We run 700 invoices on the first. The first "go" was not smooth: double, triple charges and declined cards, in spite of beta trials. Calls from frustrated, angry and confused customers started. My technique for handling them? Humor. Nothing eases tension better. I tell irate callers, many male CEOs of big businesses, that this accounting mess has me coloring my hair a month early. I apologize profusely. I get a laugh.
Thanks to: Leslie Linevsky of Catalogs.com.

34. Really Listen; Really Care

First, actively listen to the concern to ensure understanding while recognizing any anger or disappointment. "I understand you're upset about the (concern)..." It deflates much emotion simply in the acknowledgement. If warranted, agree and address the issue as requested. When that isn't possible, avoid saying "No". Instead, provide the client with options. The ability for the customer to have some control and input goes a long way in resolving difficult situations.
Thanks to: Cricket Vauthier of Retail Professional, Lecturer.

35. A business & a relationship

People in conflict enter four areas: their personal issues, the topic of the conflict, the relationship and finally a process goal. At the start, the conflict and personal issues are the greatest; which only exist since we are in the relationship. We slowly move to a process goal in the end since we value the relationship and want a solution. Understand that our clients are valuable and that we need them to exist; explore with dialogue why they are upset and find a solution that works!
Thanks to: Robin Silas of Silas Organization, Inc..

36. Angry Customers Teach More

Despite current thinking on how to "manage" angry customers, I recommend not managing them at all. I tell my clients "Send me to your screamers." I don't go in to win customers back, calm them down, or give discounts. In fact I tell their customers up front I'm not there to "fix" their problem. I talk with their customers to gain insight into the pain points causing customer anger. I then use this insight to restructure the priorities of what a client invests in developing or fixing next.
Thanks to: Darren Kall of Kall Consulting.

37. Employ Empathy

Every time a customer interacts with your brand, you are presented with an opportunity to deepen the relationship. Remove the word "can't" from your vocabulary when dealing with an angry customer. Instead, offer solutions and explain what you CAN do. Employ empathy; acknowledge the customer's frustration. Try to understand the issue and its impact on your customer as opposed to just attempting to solve it. Listen for clues that may drive future calls and take every extra step to prevent them.
Thanks to: Linda Ruffenach of ACCENT Marketing Services.

38. Tips from Umpire School

I learned several things about Customer Service, at Professional Umpire School for Baseball.

The best is, dont allow your emotions to enter in and dont say anything until they say all theyve had to say. Allow them to get beyond their emotions.
Thanks to: Dave Phillipson of CEO Space.

39. Hundreds of Other People

My company, CMS Communications, Intl. is in the service business. We deal with very high-end clients, but not always high-end representatives. These individuals have all of the responsibility, but none of the authority--not unlike most customer service reps. The worse thing a person can say: "We have hundreds of other customers who have never had a problem." The customer doesn't care about "hundreds of other people." Simply acknowledge the problem, address it, and get the help required.
Thanks to: Diana Zimmerman of CMS Communications, Intl.

40. Soothing irate customers

Our client managers know they need to sincerely APOLOGIZE that the service did not meet the customer's expectation, ASK how we failed in our efforts and then LISTEN, without interruption, until the client has said absolutely everything they want to say. Then, and only then, do you discuss how you can make the situation right. You will find that often, just listening to them without trying to defend or explain yourself is all that is needed to restore your reputation in their eyes.
Thanks to: Anthony Valentini of Pyramid Technologies.

41. Deflect anger with empathy

Listen to them. Do not interrupt; let them talk themselves out. Once you are sure they are finished talking, empathize with them. Ask clarifying questions, then summarize what you heard by repeating it back to them to let them know you are truly interested. When the customer confirms that you understand their issue only then should you prescribe a solution. Otherwise, there is a risk you will make matters worse. So listen, empathize, summarize then provide a solution.
Thanks to: Matt Colligan of Champion Windows of Colorado Spring.

42. Obstacle or Opportunity

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, allow the customer to speak his truth and never deny it. Their concerns MUST be validated. Take responsibility if it\'s obvious your organization is at fault, but also understand that Sometimes all that irate customer wants and needs is someone to Listen to how they have been wronged. You don\'t need to agree with them (if it\'s not true) but you do need to listen with empathy. Repeat everything back to them so they KNOW you have been listening. Ie. IT sounds to me like you are saying ..blah blah blah. Be open to them. Take care with your body language that it is receiving.

Be a solution specialist. Be creative in determining any fixes that this client may need to become HAPPY again. When in doubt, ASK the customer what will make them happy again.

This is a wonderful example of an opportunity disguised as an obstacle.
Thanks to: Frankie Picasso of Mission Unstoppable.