Business

How to Deal With Angry Customers


Nobody likes to be yelled at, have accusations slung at them, or be threatened with a bad review. But these things inevitably happen from time to time when you’re a business owner.

It brings to mind the classic political quote, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

In the business world, this sentiment holds true. You will never be able to please all of the people at the same time. There are simply too many diverse opinions, styles, situations, and personalities to ever enjoy a moment of agreement among your customers.

Let’s say you were to launch the most incredible product the world has ever seen. The campaign accompanying the launch is well-written, expertly designed, and communicates perfectly how this new product is exceptional.

Even if you handled everything surrounding this launch with thoughtfulness and precision, you still wouldn’t enjoy unanimous support from customers. For example, some of them might be loyalists who are upset that you’re replacing an earlier version of the product. Rather than cheering the launch, they’ll complain to you about your betrayal of their trust.

Are these irate customers in the wrong? Not necessarily. They’ve supported your brand for years and the equity they feel with your products is admirable. So their opinion is completely valid. The same goes for customers who might complain that while your new packaging is undeniably beautiful, the complex design makes it harder for those with arthritis to open.

Do you see what could happen? Even after all the months of work you did to carry out the seemingly perfect product launch, you’ve still got some messes to clean up.

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Knowing How to Deal With Angry Customers Is Essential

The angry customers in the earlier scenario would be justified in complaining about something that you might’ve thought was complaint-proof. There are also customers who don’t require a valid reason to gripe… all they need is a listening ear. These people just want to vent. Sometimes they even lash out.

Unfortunately, it’s human nature.

Guess what? You need to know how to handle these individuals. You can’t just have a classification of “Valid Concerns” that you attend to and “Grumpy Jerks” who you hang up on. First of all, such distinctions would be totally subjective, and you’d surely get it wrong. Second, even the grumps out there are paying customers. You need to show them some love and maybe even help them become a little less ornery through your stellar service.

Consider these statistics about how global customers feel about the role of customer service:

  • 90% say customer service is important to their choice of and loyalty to a brand
  • 58% won’t hesitate to sever the relationship if those expectations fall short

More than half of your customers, grumpy and delightful alike, will cut ties with you if you aren’t meeting their needs. This means you can’t just roll your eyes when an angry call or email comes in. Solving their problems is how’ll you develop loyalty that lasts.

Let’s review a few more crucial stats that drive home the role of customer service in your success:

  • 94% of customers are likely to purchase more products if you have very good service
  • 94% of customers will recommend your company if you have very good service
  • 90% of customers say they trust you to take care of them if you have very good service
  • 84% of customers say they will not trust you to take care of them if you don’t have good service
  • 77% of customers will forgive you for a bad experience if you have very good service
  • 85% of customers will not forgive you for a bad experience if you don’t have good service

How does your customer service rate when compared to the competition? Your team might have its own assessment, but it’s more important to know what your customers think. There’s a reason that customer service awards are based on customer opinions and not what companies themselves say.

You can get honest feedback from customers using a variety of methods. Perhaps you send a customer service survey to everyone who has interacted with your business in the past 6 months. The questions could be more general, asking what they value most in customer support and what they would like to see you add.

Better yet, send more targeted surveys to follow up with customers within 24 hours of them contacting your service team. The immediacy here allows you to ask specific questions about the experience and shine a light on how well your efforts are working.

Allowing your customers to share candid feedback is an ideal way to improve retention. And the benefits of retention are crucial for your success.

“Increasing customer retention isn’t just about creating warm, fuzzy feelings, it also has a dramatic impact on the bottom line,” says Mary Kate Miller. “Increasing your customer retention can drive revenue and profitability.”

Improve Your Customer Service or You’ll Fall Behind

With customer service directly impacting how much customers trust you, purchase from you, refer others to you, and are willing to pay for your products, it’s clear that any improvements you make can deliver a strong return on investment (ROI).

The market for global customer experience management is expected to grow by 17.5% in the next several years. And as more businesses within your industry make efforts to improve their services, the gap between average service and above-average service will only grow.

Franny Harold advises:

Your business could face serious consequences for lagging behind competition in customer experience […] Customers overwhelmingly agreed (83%) that they feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their complaints. Fellow business owners might urge you to level-up your customer care sooner rather than later. 73% of brands expect the number of inbound channels to increase in the next one to two years, and 53% also believe the same for outbound channels.

Even if your support team is in a good place now, you can never rest on your laurels. It’s critical to always be seeking new ways to improve your delivery and meet even the angriest of customers’ needs in better and more effective ways.

9 Tips for Your Customer Service Team

Let’s review 9 tips for dealing with angry customers that might include the perfect opportunity for your team to improve. As you read through each one, make notes on which will be most relevant to your success.

1. Start with an Introduction

It’s helpful to give your name and ask the customer for theirs. This simple clarification turns “us-against-them” scenarios into conversations. Using their name also conveys your interest in resolving their specific problem.

2. Use a Calm Tone

Our natural inclination is to match the tone of those speaking to us. When someone dishes out a compliment, we tend to share the love back to them. On the flip side, if a customer calls you an inappropriate word, it’s hard not to let our own voice rise to the occasion.

When dealing with a customer in person or over the phone, you’ll need to pay close attention to your tone, as it’s all happening in real-time. With email, chat, or social media, you have the benefit of being able to step away from the message for a moment to clear out any bad vibes before responding.

3. Keep It Professional

Even though a customer might be directing their ire toward you, it’s not really personal. They’re mad about your product, service, or delivery. So don’t let their anger bring you down.

By reminding yourself that this isn’t a personal attack, you’ll be better able to control your own emotions and deliver the best solutions.

4. Don’t Get Condescending

There are times when a customer is straight-up wrong about something. But watch out for inflammatory phrases such as “For your information” or “That’s actually not the case.” Although these phrases are commonly used, they can be demeaning. Ultimately, they’ll reinforce the customers’ already negative views and potentially add fuel to the fire.

5. Make Sure You Understand

It can be hard to decipher the truth behind the frustrated fuming of some customers. But it’s imperative that you understand the situation before you begin to seek a resolution.

The best way to improve your comprehension is to totally commit to listening, as customers can tell when you’re passively listening. If you put in the effort to learn about their concerns, you’ll be in a better position to address the problem and outline a resolution.

You can confirm your understanding by restating the issue back to the customer. This simple act ensures you have the details right and will also diffuse many situations. Why? Because the customer probably didn’t expect you to actually care about what they were saying. And the fact that you heard all the details shows your good intentions.

6. Give an Apology

The opposite of condescending language is a simple apology. Even if there are extenuating circumstances for the customer to consider, you’ll set the stage for a more productive conversation by letting the customer know you’re sorry.

The more specific your apology, the better. Avoid vague and accusatory phrases such as “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry that you received the wrong product in your order.”

7. Be Empathetic

A little empathy goes a long way in tense conversations. You might not know what it feels like to deal with the exact issue that has a customer so upset, but you’ve surely had your own frustrating experiences with various companies.

And don’t worry about your empathy serving as an admission of guilt. It’s possible to show that you understand how they feel even if you don’t agree with everything they’re saying.

8. Provide a Solution

This is where you make or break the conversation. All the empathy and sincerity in the world instantly evaporate if you can’t deliver a resolution.

If the customer accepts what you’re offering, you’ll end the conversation on a high note and can feel good about helping make their day a little better. If they aren’t satisfied with your proposed solution, you might consider asking what they think would be a fair resolution. This is a conversation after all.

In situations where the customer’s requests are acceptable, you’ve empowered them by providing a customized resolution. If the requests aren’t doable from your end, you can politely let them know. You’ll still probably end the conversation in a better place than it began because you will have offered a potential solution and also taken the time to hear their opinion on the matter.

9. Use the Experience to Get Better

Each conversation with an angry customer should be treated as a chance to learn. First off, look for trends in the complaints and be sure to pass on the feedback to the necessary teams within your company. By sharing these learnings you can hopefully reduce customer frustration in the future.

Second, you should share best practices within your team. Maybe you’ve found an effective way to reduce tension or a solution that’s often eagerly accepted. Pass these on so that your entire team can collaborate on ways to improve your service.

Continually Strive to Deliver for Your Customers

If you want more ideas for becoming a customer-focused business that consistently outperforms the competition, head over to our library of free business courses. You’ll learn crucial skills such as how to communicate better with customers, how to find the best products for their needs, and how to overcome obstacles that might be standing in your path.

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