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How to Handle Angry Customers: Tips from Customer Support Leaders

Coaching9 MIN READDec 22, 2021

Customer service tips for angry customers

When you work in customer support, there’s just no escaping the occasional (or, God forbid, hordes of) heated interactions with angry customers. We’re talking about those conversations that really challenge your resolve to try and not throw your screen out of the window. Put your screen down: read our customer service tips for difficult situations instead.

Not being prepared for such situations can lead to stress, agent burnout, or even a PR disaster for your company.

And while it’s probably never going to be a picnic, a little bit of preparation can go a long way in helping you convert these emotionally charged conversations into opportunities where you can:

  • learn more about your customers and their pain points.
  • fix issues and further improve the customer experience.
  • delight your customers with your prompt and helpful support. 
We’ve compiled a list of customer service tips for handling angry customers – collected from experts around the world!

Want to handle disgruntled customers like an absolute boss? Read ahead. 

Give angry customers space to vent 

Angry customers are reaching out to you for solutions. However, they’re also reaching out for recognition of their problem. 

Therefore, it’s extremely important to give the customer all the room they need to vent and rant. 

You want to focus on handling the person first before the issue itself.  Trying to jump in for details is twice as hard, if not more, when you’re dealing with an irate customer.

So allow your angry customers to blow off steam and settle down before you even start trying to find solutions to the problem itself. 

Give them your undivided attention and show them you’re on their side. If customers believe that you can champion their cause within your organization and help them fix their issue, they’re much more likely to calm down and be helpful. 

Be firm and set clear expectations 

While you should give your customers space to express their anger, under no circumstances should you allow them to be downright abusive or rude. 

Now, where exactly you draw this line depends largely on your company’s customer service goals, policies, and your own personal mileage. But when you feel like a customer is venturing into this territory, don’t be afraid to let them know they’re approaching a boundary in a polite manner.  

This leaves them with no choice but to change the way they talk to you if they want their inquiries attended.

Customer service tip

Stay calm and don’t take things personally

A conversation with one angry person is complicated enough. You really don’t want to add to the problem by feeding into the situation and reacting in kind. 

If you feel like you’re getting drawn into an argument, take a moment to compose yourself and continue maintaining a neutral tone.

You want to separate yourself from the customer’s emotions altogether. While it can be hard to implement whilst in the middle of a difficult situation, it’s important to remember that their anger isn’t directed towards you. 

Keeping this perspective in mind allows you to handle such matters in a more calm and logical manner, and is a more sustainable way to work through multiple angry customer conversations each day.

Customer service tip

Read more about making your work life less dreary: tools for working remotely.

Understand everything you can about the customer & the problem

Giving a solution to a question not asked is as good as no solution itself. Probably even worse, if you consider the time wasted as well.

Therefore, it’s essential that you take the time to listen carefully and ask questions to discover the underlying reason for a customer’s anger.

Customer service tip

Chances are you already have some background information about the customer you’re dealing with on file. But you should take it a step further and ask them other questions, even ones unrelated to the problem, that can help you better connect with them. 

When they’re speaking about the issue itself, ask plenty of follow-up questions and paraphrase what they’ve said back to them. 

This way, you can show them that their concerns are being listened to while also avoiding any misunderstandings at the same time. 

Offer clear explanations to soften the blow of bad news

Unfortunately, in your role as a support agent, there will be times when you have no choice but to deliver bad news to your customers.

However, you want to deliver such information in the most tactful manner so as to not further irk and frustrate them.  

Avoid saying things like “That’s just how it is” or “It’s against our policy”, but instead give a clear, logical explanation of why you’re choosing to do things the way you are. 

Make sure you stay updated with how your product works and the policies your company follows. This allows you to be much better positioned to confidently deliver lousy news or refuse requests (and explain why you’re doing so) to angry customers. 

Customer service tip

Describe exactly what needs to be done and how long it’ll take

The best outcome to pacify an angry customer is to deliver an instant solution. But very often, there may not be an immediate solution. Which could even be why they’re so angry to start with. 

In such circumstances, you want to clearly break down what steps you’ll take (or need them to take) and exactly how long each step will take. 

Remove any ambiguity by cross-checking if everything is clear and be on hand to provide additional information if necessary. 

Lastly, it’s equally important that you take the trouble to ensure that everything you promised is being delivered in a timely manner. 

Collaborate with your team and use all the resources at your disposal

Sometimes you’ll deal with situations where you feel like you’re simply out of your depth and don’t know what to do. 

Depending on the exact scenario, there are a number of ways you could choose to handle it. 

For example, things like: 

  • talking to a co-worker and getting a second opinion, 
  • buying time by placing the customer on hold to compose yourself, 
  • or roping in an engineer on the call to back up what you’ve already mentioned, etc.

are all resources you can strategically use as and when you feel like it’s appropriate. 

It’s also completely fine to escalate a case to a superior when you feel like you could use more help. 

Are you a manager looking to help your team improve? Self-reviews are an excellent customer service management tactic

Customer service tip

 
You may not always have a solution handy. But you should always strive to effectively go about finding and sharing one with your customers in a timely manner.  Remember “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out for you,” is a completely reasonable response – and much better than guessing!
 

End conversations on a positive note & follow up with customers after 

Once you’ve provided the customer with the next steps, you want to thank them for bringing the issue to your notice. 

Not only does this show them that their opinion is valued, but their feedback can help you prevent the same issue from happening to other customers. 

At the same time, this encourages them to continue sharing feedback, whether positive or negative, with you. This helps you understand and build relationships with customers

Make it a point to proactively follow up with customers and inform them of any changes or developments as and when they happen. 

Customer service tip

If your support exceeds the expectations you’ve set, you’re potentially turning an angry customer into an advocate of your product. 

 

Relay information quickly and reflect on complex interactions

You’ve successfully used some of the techniques above to navigate to the end of a difficult interaction. But it doesn’t quite end there.

You also want to make sure you have an efficient way of communicating the particulars of your conversation to the concerned team so that they can make the necessary changes.

Simply put, one of the most effective ways of handling angry customers is to fix issues and prevent even more angry customers. 

Additionally, you should spend some time reflecting on how you handled the situation and things you could have done better. 

You can even take it a step further by sharing these experiences with your support team and getting their thoughts during team meetings and 1-to-1s. If you aren’t already, Klaus is the perfect quality management platform to improve your support conversations through meaningful feedback.

Convert conversations with angry customers into opportunities to show off your excellent customer support 

Now, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. Dealing with angry customers is still, at times, going to be stressful and challenging. 

But with the customer service tips you’re now equipped with, it could also be the perfect platform for you to turn negative conversations into paws-itive experiences!  

While the tips above are fantastic and will lead you away from cat-astrophe, a better way of shaping your agents into amazing agents is to give specified feedback. 
Check out Klaus!

Written by

Jay
Jayanth Padmakumar
Jay loves all things mindfulness, sports, and craft beer. Sometimes, he also writes.

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