What’s the best tactic you’ve found for calming down an angry customer?
To help managers and business owners calm down an angry customer, we asked customer service professionals to share their best success stories and tips. From focusing on tone to structuring customer support responses, there are several effective customer service strategies to help turn a negative into a positive.
Need to know how to deal with angry customers?
Here are 11 tactics for calming down an angry customer.
Back in my days as a Retail Manager, I had a Mentor that taught me the 3A’s model for working with upset customers. The three A’s are acknowledge, align and answer.
Acknowledge – Acknowledge a customer’s perspective.
This can be as simple as repeating back what they said. (E.g. “It sounds like you are upset that we cannot find the item you are looking for.”) This will make them feel heard.
Align – Align with their feelings by stating you are aware of them.
This can be accomplished by stating your observation of their mood. (E.g.“I can understand how this could be frustration”). This will make them feel understood.
Answer – Give the customer your answer in a respectful tone regardless if the news is good or bad. (E.g. “Unfortunately, we no longer make this product. I am happy to show you alternatives.)
This will make them feel respected. As always, voice tone is key. While this is not a panacea that will fix all problems, it has deescalated quite a few situations.
The best way to calm an angry customer is to simply listen!
Turn on your active listening skills and let the customer vent. Do not interrupt or argue; just look them in the eye and take in all they are saying. Most of the time, people are angry because of something that is a misunderstanding.
If you can listen long enough to understand how and when the misunderstanding took place, it eventually will be resolved!
Knowing how to effectively respond to an angry person is a wonderful asset in any setting, personal or professional.
When you encounter an individual who is angry, it is important to respond calmly and intelligently.
The communication should begin with active listening and then acknowledging their distress. Their perception is their reality, so validating their feelings will help establish respect in the conversation. As you remain calm in your demeanor and tone, the hope is that this will deescalate the angry individual.
This is true for all communication and interaction, and this is an incredibly important tool when managing a hostile situation.
Tone is the vocal quality that can change the meaning of any sentence from being a threat, a joke or a seduction. Focusing on the tone will also impact body language and word choice, but as a quick and ready rule, focus on the right tone, and the rest will follow.
When it comes to practical actions we take with a hostile customer, for us as an e-commerce brand, we do all of our customer services either virtually or over the phone.
For many customers, having to send an email about an experience they may be upset with can cause even more stress on the situation. That’s why at Kegelbell, our priority is to follow up with any customer complaint, question or even positive feedback ASAP.
We have someone monitoring support emails and phone calls around the clock and are always ready to listen to a customer’s concerns and quickly rectify the problem. At the end of the day, our customer’s happiness is our priority, and we make a conscious effort to make each decision we make with that in mind.
The best tactic I’ve found for calming an angry customer is looking at the situation from their perspective.
Ask, “If this same thing would’ve happened to me, would I, too, be upset?”
If the answer is yes, sympathize with them and validate their feelings. Tell them they have a right to be angry. Usually, when the customer feels like someone understands their feelings, it can wash away some level of frustration they are feeling and they can get to a more peaceful resolution.
When customers are angry, I find that it is very helpful to focus on my breathing. It is easy to take offense to their comments and be argumentative, but that isn’t productive. By counting to three before responding to them and taking a deep breath, you can give yourself time to find your words and actively separate yourself from the situation that angered them in the first place.
There’s a great book written by a former FBI hostage negotiator called “Never Split The Difference.” The book shares a variety of negotiation tactics, many of which can be applied to customer service.
One of my favorite tactics shared in the book is the concept of “mirroring.”
Mirroring sounds like it would never work, but the core premise is to listen hard and repeat the end of a sentence.
For example, if a customer says, “I don’t know how you and your team could have let this slip! Now I have customers angry at me and my team!” – a good mirroring strategy would reply with something like, “Customers are angry at you and your team?”
The purpose of a mirroring strategy is to get to the deeper and underlying issues of what’s really important to a person. Through mirroring, you may be able to find what solution would work best for the customer.
Let them vent. Listen to find out what is the true item that is causing them to be upset.
When the time is right, apologize if necessary, then reframe what you heard to make sure you heard what their issue really is.
This lets them know you are really listening to them, and you are making sure that is their real issue. That will usually calm them down a little if you get it right. Then ask more questions if needed.
You can sympathize with them, “I understand that has happened to me before as well.”
Then find out what they would like the solution to be for their issue and see if you can solve it for them, or get the right person to help them. Don’t transfer this person around unless you want to make them angrier.
Listen to them.
Make sure you understand what they are really upset about. And do your best to stay calm. Don’t be defensive, start arguing with them or blame others.
Do everything in your power to help a customer or client before it ever reaches any feelings of anger.
There is always a middle ground where a company can offer a customer exactly what they require to feel satisfied and that there was a positive outcome from expressing their concerns.
Salvaging the relationship with one customer can mean countless referrals, as well as an individual who will always be loyal to your company brand.
Email-based customer support is a pain. It’s difficult for angry customers to gauge how attentive you’re trying to be.
The best tip I have is to break the customer’s previous response into separate paragraphs in your follow-up and address the solution to each point directly under each broken-up section. Make sure to mark each section in bold and keep your follow-up to each section in plain text—to differentiate the problem from its written solution.
This way—there is a structure to your email response, and it will be much easier for customers to read your emails; it also helps them see that you are attentive to their every need.
The alternative usually involves raving customers ending up getting a lengthy and boring sounding, A4-size essay—which is already demotivating for them to go through at first glance.
Whether a customer is angry or happy, the best solution for customer service is to listen intently.
By listening to customers, a company can better understand how to get the little things right.
Then, when a company knows what the little things are, they can focus on getting better each and every day by doing those things.
Oftentimes, customers get upset or frustrated when there’s a combination of little things that go wrong. When those little things are addressed through active listening, the customer experience improves through predictability.
Calming down an angry customer may be difficult, but it’s not impossible when you know how to deal with angry customers.
Whether it’s listening intently or better structuring your support responses, hopefully these service tips and stories can help you transform customer unhappiness into a valuable resource for your business.