Facing angry or difficult customers while you’re at work isn’t fun, right?
To be honest it’s the last thing most of us want while at work, yet it’s inevitable in any job where you deal with the public.
Some people are just going to be difficult, or cannot control their temper.
You could say it’s justified in some circumstances, depending on how you see venting anger. Personally I don’t’ think it’s ever necessary, but that’s just me.
With that being said, and the realization that you will have to deal with angry customers from time to time, it’s how you handle the situation that makes all the difference.
How you respond can be the difference between a customer walking away satisfied, and no long angry. Or the customer threatening further action and leaving completely dissatisfied and making a scene.
I have worked in several customer service jobs over the years. I’ve seen my fair share of angry customers, and I have handled situations differently. I have learned a lot about handling angry customers, and I know some of it can be a real help to others.
So, here are my 7 tips to help you deal with angry customers:
Always Remain Calm
This is often easier said than done, and if you’re of angry disposition it may take some work. But always, and I mean – always – stay calm. There is nothing to gain by getting angry, the situation will only get worse.
Even if the customer is screaming in your face, by staying calm you make them look a lot worse than they already do. You are within your rights to distance yourself if you think the customer is invading your personal space.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Unless you have done something specifically, which isn’t likely, the customer is not angry at you. They are angry at the situation, and how they feel they are being treated by the company.
If they are saying things that offend you personally, it’s because they are angry. In clearer heads when everything is calm, do you think they would be saying the same thing? Keep the discussion strictly professional, it’s not about you personally.
Listen More than Talk
It’s important you let the angry customer vent their frustrations. Often they are in need of someone to listen and understand their point of view. So have your best listening ear’s on, and let them say everything they have to, regardless how long it takes.
You will see the person slowly deflating the more they vent their frustrations. Paraphrase what they have said afterwards, make sure you both agree on what has been said. Ask any questions you feel are valid, and communicate clearly what you are going to do.
Sympathize and Try to Understand Their Point
After the customer has had their rant they will want to know that you have been listening. Make sure you are clear with them that you understand the point they are making. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but that you understand.
Be sympathetic with them, they are obviously distressed for a reason. You can often defuse a situation by following these two points. It’s worked for me on many occasion, often turning the conversation round into something a lot more controlled and logical.
It’s amazing how far an apology can often go. At this stage it doesn’t matter whether or not you think the customer has a point, you should be apologizing. It’s important for most businesses to retain as many customers as possible, even after a bad experience.
By apologizing and showing that you are willing to work towards resolving the issue, you will likely retain their business. Be careful not to implicate the organization or make any promises however, just keep it to an apology at first.
Find a Solution
Once you have been through these phases above, it’s time to find a solution for the problem that everyone is happy with. Ask the customer what they want to see happen to resolve the problem, then see if that’s reasonable.
Remember you may have to bend your view slightly. There is more to resolving a problem than just that moment in time. There is the reputation and possible bad press that results from unhappy customers, weigh up all the options.
Take a Timeout to Think
An angry customer in the heat of the moment can be a stressful thing. The situation can seem so very different after a cooling down period. Which is why I always recommend the employee takes a few minutes out to clear their head, and let the customer cool off.
Make a polite excuse that you want to go and speak to a manager, or check the stock of an item being returned, Do whatever it takes, but take a few minutes to collect your thoughts. Don’t let the customer stress you out, we all need a little mental reset after an angry confrontation.
I hope these tips will prove handy next time you’re confronted with an angry or difficult customer.
It’s an unfortunate by-product of working in a service industry, or with the public. And, while it cannot be avoided entirely, as you have seen, it can be neutralized when handled well.
So next time, let cooler heads prevail. You will feel better for it, and the customer may just walk away happy.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.