How to de-escalate an angry customer (and come out of the situation with a stronger relationship)

Handling an angry customer can be a difficult and intimidating task. But managed the right way, can lead to an even stronger relationship.

Whether in person, over the phone, or through email, dealing with an angry customer requires patience and empathy. It is essential to remain calm and professional while also offering solutions to help resolve the issue at hand.

The goal should always be to de-escalate the situation and come out of it with a stronger relationship than when you started. With some preparation and practice, you can handle any tough conversation confidently.

Here’s a six-step process for managing an unhappy customer – and coming out of the situation with a stronger relationship.

1) Acknowledge the customer’s anger and frustration

It is essential to recognize that when a customer expresses anger and frustration, it can be challenging to articulate the source of their annoyance. In these situations, it’s important to listen first and talk last. It’s also essential to keep calm and maintain professionalism to help customers feel that their concerns are being taken seriously. 

Once you have fully listened, begin to identify the source of the customer’s frustration by asking questions about why they are angry or where the problem arose. Doing so will clarify how best you can address the issue at hand. If necessary, remain open-minded and willing to listen throughout.

2) Empathize with their situation

When dealing with customer complaints or issues, it is important to empathize with their situation. Asking questions and using the right language will help show that you understand how your customer feels and that you are trying to get to the root cause of their problem.

Taking time to truly put yourself in the customer’s shoes will also help you provide a better, more tailored response. 

Using positive and understanding language can go a long way toward making them feel heard and valued. Listening carefully and appropriately responding can be crucial for retaining customers and creating lasting relationships.

3) Validate their feelings and take responsibility when applicable

When handling customer complaints and addressing negative experiences, companies need to take responsibility for any mistake made on their side.

This includes listening to the customer’s grievances and validating their feelings. Acknowledging the customer’s dissatisfaction and allowing them to express their feelings can go a long way in building trust and establishing goodwill. 

An effective response may involve taking responsibility by apologizing or offering a solution or compensation, if appropriate. Taking responsibility allows customers to feel reassured that they will be listened to rather than ignored in times of difficulty. It also shows that the company values its customers and respects their opinions.

4) Focus on resolutions, not excuses

When it comes to customer service, it is so important to focus on finding a resolution rather than attempting to prove the customer wrong. This takes the focus away from finger-pointing and allows both parties to work together to find a solution. 

For example, for our academic transcription services, we understand that our clients already have enough on their plate. As a business, our goal is to accommodate them as much as possible through hiring the right individuals, providing excellent customer service, and supplying easy means of communication to clients. 

When something goes wrong and a client calls in and they are upset, instead of wasting energy in coming up with excuses, it is better to fix it immediately. Even if it’s a Sunday night. This helps foster a better relationship between the business and the customer in the long term by making sure that communication remains open and honest throughout the process. 

Whether you’re an academic, operate multiple businesses, or own a legal business, you must be clear and concise with clients when informing them how their issues or concerns will be handled. Being direct about potential outcomes ensures that both parties are fully aware of what is expected from them throughout the process.

By being transparent about expectations, customers will feel much more confident in trusting that their issue will be taken seriously and that any promises made by the business are ones they can rely on.

5) Make concessions when possible

It is often necessary to make concessions when dealing with customer issues. This can range from offering discounts and free products to allowing time-sensitive exceptions to warranty and return policies.

Taking a proactive approach and acknowledging their concerns with an offer of compensation for their trouble can go a long way in creating a positive experience for the customer.

When facing client complaints or requests for refunds or replacements, providing discounts or free products is often the best course of action, as customers are more likely to feel satisfied and show appreciation if they receive something in return for the inconvenience.

Similarly, minor adjustments to product or service warranties may be considered if there is a valid cause for an exception. The key is to exercise flexibility to restore customer trust and ensure that the end result is satisfactory for both parties involved.

6) Follow up with the customer if you are able

Following up with customers is a great way to show your commitment to their satisfaction. It’s a simple but effective gesture that can go a long way toward building strong, lasting relationships.

After resolving an issue, try to reach out and check in on the customer. Ask if there are any other issues or concerns they have, and do what you can to make sure their experience is satisfactory.

Even if the situation has been handled, it’s essential to show the customer that you take their opinion seriously and make sure they had positive outcomes from working with you. 

By following up with customers after a resolution is reached, you demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction and build trust and rapport with them for future interactions.

Don’t let customer complaints define your business

Customer complaints are a normal part of running any business. It can be difficult to handle criticism, and it’s important to remember that customer feedback is invaluable and helps businesses learn and grow in the long term.

However, it’s also important not to let customer complaints define your business or tarnish its reputation. Make sure you focus on resolving issues quickly and efficiently while staying true to your business values.

Ben Walker is a CEO, entrepreneur, and visionary leader that enjoys helping others become successful in business and in life. Ben’s company, Ditto Transcripts, provides user-friendly and cost-effective transcription services for the medical, legal, law enforcement, and financial industries for organizations all over the world.

Ben is a sought after thought leader and has made contributions to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc, Forbes, and the Associated Press. Follow Ben’s Tweets: @benjaminkwalker.

Photo by Christiann Koepke