5 Tactics to Deal with Angry Customers

Learn how to treat the customer like the unique person they are to your business and revert an anger situation.

Amanda Pofahl

Latin American Market Expert
December 19 2017 · 6 min read

The modern day customer has high expectations around knowledge and insights, convenience and customer service. If you’ve spent some time on the front line of customer services, you are not new to an angry customer situation.

95% of respondents said they usually tell at least one other person about a bad customer experiences with a company, while 54% said they share it with at least 5 other people. Zendesk WP
Customer Service& Business Results

As a business owner you agree that how you deal with an angry customer has a profound impact on your brand reputation and revenues. An unhappy customer takes no time to share their bad experiences with friends, colleagues, and the general public, especially through online media.

 No matter how much money you have invested in delivering the best customer experience, one bad experience is enough to put your brand reputation at stake. How you deal with unsatisfied customers is a key deciding factor of your brand reputation. It is thus safe to say that how you deal with an angry customer can make or break your business.

But, as usual, it is easier said than done.No two customers or situations are alike and what works with one customer seldom works with the other. In a day-to-day business environment, it's impossible to settle all customer complaints and there will always be a certain percentage of customers who will continue to be unhappy and dissatisfied with the solution you offer. This is what turns a customer difficult, who needs to be dealt differently from the others.

So the next obvious question that arises is how to deal with unhappy customers? While there are many do’s and don’ts of handling thse kind of situation, let’s begin with these easy-to-follow tactics.

How to deal with angry customers

Don’t Argue, Simply Begin With an Apology

More often than not, you will come across an angry customer who is angry about something that was never your fault. In fact, you would often come across customers who have ended up in a situation because of their own fault, but you cannot point it out directly. Never tell a customer it is their fault! By doing so, all you do is shake their faith in your brand. Instead, start off of the conversation by apologizing and ask them for the key information required to investigate the matter.

What does this mean for you? : You acknowledge a problem, whether big or small, exists, showing that you are willing to help the customer. Empathizing with the customer has always helped diffuse many difficult customer situations.

Be Prompt

Imagine yourself in the place of the customer, trying to get a simple problem solved. But all you get in return is a canned response saying a customer services agent will get back to you in the next few working days, only to get another status update email with no concrete response to your complaint. Sounds familiar? Well that is what your customer goes through when you aren’t prompt in responding to their complaints. A whopping 77% of customers have a positive opinion about businesses who respond to a complaint promptly.

What does this mean for you? : Don’t wait for your customers to follow up on their complaint. Often companies fail to respond to customer escalations on time, which only adds fuel to the fire. Make sure you have a system that allows you to track, monitor and respond to each complaint on time. In this internet erae, there are many cloud-based customer service tools to ensure that your customers don’t have to wait for long before they hear back from you.

Listen, Don’t Just Hear

A majority of angry customer situations arise because they think companies don’t really listen to what they have to say. More than 50% of the time, customers just want to be heard!

What does this mean for you? : Go back to the basics. While dealing with an unhappy customer, try and understand what their’s main concern is. An important step in customer support & service is to understand what is the complaint all about?

Sometimes just saying, “I hear you” or “I am really sorry you had to face such a situation” or even “based on what you just told me, I understand your problem” is enough to convince the customer that you are genuinely interested in helping them out. Re-phrase the complaint in your own words to reconfirm you have understood the customers grievance well. Canned responses don’t work in every situation.

Don’t just respond, solve it, too.

As a good customer service representative, you not only need to have good listening skills but also the ability to solve the issue efficiently.

For example, if the customer is complaining about a newly added feature to your product or service, inform them immediately. Don’t get into justifying the company’s stance, or saying that the company had sent out communications previously. Simply offer to walk them through the new process step by step, explaining what each step means and end the conversation only when the customer is satisfied. Depending on the nature of the complaint, here is a sample of what you could say to your customer:

“I understand where the problem lies. All this while you were doing X… but now, as per the latest upgrade, you have to do Y.”

What does this mean for you: Customers like dealing with companies who are able to settle complaints on the spot with minimal wait time.

Be empathetic & validate their emotions

Empathy is key when handling customers. Being empathetic means to quickly step into your customer’s shoes and understand why they are unhappy. Express how you relate to what the customer seems to be feeling and try to talk them down . For example, try saying something like, “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I can understand how frustrating it must be for you to be in this situation. Be assured I will try my best to get your issue solved at the earliest.”

What does this mean for you: You’d be surprised how well being empathetic works! It is a simple yet so often ignored skill that is not used as widely as it should be to ease off tense situations with the customer. However, keep in mind that showing empathy is something real and there is no script to follow. The simple rule here is to be yourself, and say something that has a calming effect on your customer and conveys that you genuinely care.

Don’t offer quick fixes as a mean to appease

Sure you deal with many stressed-out customers every day and this one in particular seems to be really tough to handle, but that does not mean you assume the customer is looking for a monetary benefit! Many companies resort to quick tactics of offering some random discount as a way to pacify the customer. This is a palliative measure that will only infuriate the customer further. Try and identify what caused the problem in the first place and fix it there.

What does this mean for you: When a customer complains, they are not necessarily looking for a one time price reduction or cheap discount. They are looking for a permanent solution, so that they don’t have to keep coming back to you with the same complaint every now and then. So, identify the problem. An unhappy customer is making you aware of a faulty process in your system and this is your chance to fix it, turning a customer complaint into a real opportunity of improvement. For example, they may open your eyes to the importance of updating the customer dashboards so that they can see the latest transactions details, or sending them multiple reminders on different channels about an upcoming payment, so that the customer does not end up paying a fine.

Empower your customer

Let’s face it, we are in 2018 and, if your main target audience are millennials, things have to change. This tech-savvy generation is redefining the rules of customer service. This class of customers doesn’t like to call customer reps and exchange a zillion emails. Instead, they prefer efficient self-service, DIY ways of resolving their issues. Human interactions are only necessary if all the existing ways of troubleshooting are exhausted.

What this means for you: Empowering your customers affects both companies and customers perception of the brand, positively. If your brand fails their expectations, customers won’t sit grumbling in silence. Social media is their weapon against you, so amp up your presence and be proactive on that channel. If a customer tweets a complaint, it is because they are checking to see if you as a brand cares enough about their loyal customers.

Again, an important thing to remember here is that Millennials do not jump brands very often. But that does not mean they will take what you give them. Customization and personalization is still the key factor to keep this audience engaged.

Summing it up, handling angry customers can be emotionally and financially draining, but as work-life success coach and customer service expert Marilyn Suttle points out:

“A difficult customer is still a customer. This is someone who hasn’t walked away from your company or service, and so their loyalty is still salvageable.”

As a ecommerce business owner it is guaranteed that you will have to deal with angry frustrated customers at some point or the other. How you handle an angry customer can either lead to a successful resolution of their complaint or losing the customer forever. Prevention doesn’t work 100% of the time hence a well-trained customer service team with detailed SOP’s on how to deal with angry customers is highly recommended.

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