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10 March 2015

Dealing With Angry Customers: 4 Ways to Handle The Heat

Something that’s happened to us all – dealing with angry customers! Wherever we work, whatever we do, we’ll all eventually find ourselves face-to-face in that awkward situation in the workplace we’d rather simply avoid. Let’s face it – people get angry all the time.

In my younger days when I first started out as a Holiday rep across sun-filled European resorts, sales were always a strong part of my role. However, customer service and problem-solving were areas in which I learnt the quickest. Holidays are meant to make you feel good. Ironically, they can also bring out the worst in people. Angry finger-pointing holidaymakers shouting and yelling who create a rather embarrassing scene.

Delayed airport passengers holding you personally responsible for their overnight 12-hour delay and in-your-face fathers ready to explode with fury. Thrown in at the deep end, this became my first “training ground” in dealing with angry customers and the first steps to developing strong customer service skills.

Angry customers get angry for a number of reasons. Some perfectly justified, and others completely the opposite. Keeping customers on our side is often easier said than done and demonstrating those valuable soft skills to defuse heated situations can really make a difference.

How you respond can really be the fine line between a customer who feels satisfied and one who will tarnish your business and spread non-welcomed negativity. Knowing how to handle the heat is a skill worth learning. Taken from my workshop “Dealing with Angry Customers”, I’d like to share a few takeaways to help you feel more confident in dealing with angry customers and understanding how to defuse potential customer-nightmares.

Readjust Your Mindset & Focus

The first piece of advice is crucial. As soon as you’ve been given signs the customer is upset or angry, the first things is to put yourself into a customer service mindset. Your golden goal is to take on board the issue and set aside any feelings you may have putting your client in the wrong. Keep this goal firmly in mind even if you’ve been unfairly critisized or even subject to a personal attack. Focus on the fact that your customer or client is upset. Acknowledge you’re the one to resolve the problem.

Try to get into a frame of mind that entirely focuses on your client, and the present situation. This will help you remember not to take it personally. In the middle of dealing with angry customers when you’re directly in the firing line, it’s easy to forget the customer is actually not angry with you. They’re unhappy with the performance, your product or the quality of the service your company provides. Although it often seems personal, usually it isn’t.

Keep Cool

Easy to say, harder to do. Going back to my repping days, one thing I learnt very quickly when dealing with angry customers was you’ll never win an argument with a customer. Trying to outsmart the customer is the wrong move. Responding in a similar manner to a yelling customer who is simply making your blood boil accomplishes nothing at all. In fact, it will only ignite the conversation and may even escalate into something more hostile. Self-control is a beautiful skill to master. In this type of case this helps to defuse the situation. Remember, no matter what happens, don’t be driven towards the same anxiety levels as your customer as this will take things to a far darker place. Don’t be pulled down when dealing with angry customers.

I’m constantly aware of what the situation looks like to a bystander. When you’re dealing with angry customers, this will usually attract attention from a curious audience. Show them how it’s done. If you can keep cool throughout this heated interaction and come away with a positive result, you’ll actually gain credibility and more respect from others.

Put Your Listening Skills into Action

Angry customers want to vent feelings and air grievances. They need someone to listen. You need to patiently listen to why your customer is upset. This can start the process in diffusing the situation and makes the customer feel acknowledged in his complaint. Start by asking a question which completely puts the ball in their court and proves you’re ready to hear them out.

Try “Let’s go through exactly what happened,” or “Please tell me everything – I’d like to know why you’re upset.” This is a subtle way to form a partnership between you and your client, and shows you’re focused on getting to the bottom of things. Try not to solve the situation right away or jump to conclusions. Let your client tell you his story. Hold back from interrupting and as this gives your client your full attention.

Actively Empathize When Dealing with Angry Customers

After the customer has vented his anger and told his story, he then wants to know you fully understand his point, his concerns and how he feels. This is where you show you’ve understood why the customer is upset. There are many ways to verbally do this, such as “I understand why you’re upset. I would be too” or “You’re right to feel upset. This shouldn’t have happened”. Respect and understanding, expressing empathy for their negative customer experience really does go a long way toward smoothing things over.

Here are just a few tips and ideas to remember the next time you’re faced with a tricky situation at work. It’s never easy, but if we know what to say and perhaps more importantly, how to say it, we can start to puts things right. We can regain the customer loyalty and surprisingly, often end up with a better relationship with our client than we had before. Dealing with angry customers in the right way can actually turn into a blessing.

Does your company team need to refresh their techniques when dealing with tricky customer situations? Do you need some valuable insights into dealing with angry customers? Get in touch to arrange a visit to your company sharing the “Deal With Angry Customers” workshop full of practical advice, proven techniques and useful customer service phrases.

It’s over to you. Have you got any hard-hitting tips others could benefit from? Leave a comment and let us know!