What to do When Faced with an Angry Customer

Beth Dean 07.06.16
130 Dude On Laptop Outside

It can make you tense just thinking about it. Sometimes a customer is flat out unhappy, and it’s your job to handle the situation.

Most leaders are already skilled at dealing with angry customers, but their employees may not have mastered it yet. These 5 steps can help anyone handle tense situations and continue to deliver outstanding service.

1. Breathe
The first step is to remain calm. Many people have a fight or flight instinct when dealing with conflict. Resist it. Don’t fight with the person and don’t run away. Another instinct to avoid is being defensive or deflecting guilt. Stop, breathe, and go to step #2.

2. Listen
Even the angriest customer may have legitimate complaints. Sometimes the person also just need to vent his or her frustrations to a listening ear. The delivery may be rough and noisy, but try to listen to the message and get to the root of the problem.

3. Empathize
Think of things from the customer’s point of view. Would you also be angry at the situation?

“You can’t take it personally,” says Bill Stephens, Nextep Payroll Supervisor. “Most people aren’t angry at you; they’re angry at the situation. You can’t get angry at them for that.”

4. But only to an extent
The employee or leaders job is to solve the problem at hand; not to be abused. Any time an angry customer becomes verbally abusive, the conversation ends. Employees must be empowered to walk away or hang up on someone who has veered into being inappropriate or violent.

5. Resolve
Don’t dwell indefinitely in the problem or the customer’s anger. Remain calm, listen, get the information needed, think through it, and solve the problem as much as possible, involving the customer in each step of the solution.

Notice that the heading for #5 is resolve, not solve. Sometimes, a problem just can’t be completely solved. Sometimes a customer won’t be 100% happy with the outcome. The best work is done when finding a solution so the customer understands the outcome and is satisfied with the help.

For more human resource guidance on dealing with an angry customer, contact Nextep’s HR team.

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