Business Practices | | Published February 19, 2015

Guest Post: What to Say to an Angry Customer

angry catWhen it comes to hot tamale customers, sometimes the more you care, the worse you fare. It’s important to decide when to be an actor, when to be a human, or a computer. Throughout it all, remember that the more validation and empathy, the better -- nobody likes to be angry alone. Call centers often employ workforce management software to get in depth analytics about customer interaction. These can be extremely helpful to better understand you customers but also yourself – the call taker. Here are the best tips for dealing with red hot customers – use with wisdom and as applicable to your situation.

1. I hear you.

Many experts recommend saying “I understand” but this is wrong. Unless you truly do in your soul or have taken acting classes, don’t use this because it’s hollow. From my experience (many lifetimes of venting and being vented to/at) the phrase “I hear you” works the best. It has a hint of “I understand,” implies that you’re listening, and implies connection.

2. Thanks for being straight with me.

This is twice as good as “thanks for being honest” because it has personality. Any time the customer feels that you’re a living, breathing human and not H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey it’s a win.

3. Sometimes we fail.

Companies need to stop dancing around the “we’re perfect” image. Humans have zits and tell white lies, companies screw up shipping and accidentally bill customers twice. Admitting this is the best way to be honest. When the CSR reads from a script, it can leave customers feeling slightly raw, like they’ve been lied to, like fault was acknowledged but not accepted.

4. You have the right to be angry.

…(not the right to remain silent) This is a great validator. Without this, there is an unspoken battle of whether the customer is in the right. Customer service isn’t about tricking them into forgetting about your company’s effrontery -- it’s about helping them forgive it. You can be angry, just remember to remain courteous and professional. You don’t want to get into a screaming match with a customer.

5. You’re right.

Finally, someone says it! Tell the customer that he/she is 100% right! Let them leave the conversation feeling good about themselves, feeling correct, and maybe they’ll remember you positively.

6. That must have been frustrating.

It’s simple but it shows you understand, gives emotional validation. Much of customer interaction is about showing that you understand instead of saying it.

7. If I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way.

Another excellent validator. The phrase “in your shoes” is ingrained with humanity.

writing8. Would you mind if I write this down?

This requires skill to actually make it worthwhile. Follow up with “it helps me to understand when I write things down.” This can make them feel a bit of pity (which can be a good thing) but not that you’re incompetent.

9. I’m going to do my best to help you.

This implies that you’re in the trenches with them, that you’re on the line here too.

10. Have I done something personally to upset you? Because I’m trying my best…

Just in case the customer is going haywire, bust this out but do so in a slightly sad tone. It’s one of those “reality checks” where the customer is forced to remember that you’re a human.

If none of these work, just remember to speak softly and think happy thoughts; all bad weather comes to an end. For more tips on the art of dealing with customers or on empathy check out “How to amplify the customer experience with personalized interaction.”


BIO: Lucas is a creative content crafter at the Marketing Zen Group and Kova Corporation. As a UW Madison Graduate with high aspirations, he excels at composing content from the soul, striking a balance between emotionally insightful and goofily charming. In his free time, the former Badger enjoys gaming, hockey, and massages. Follow him @LucasRunge