When Customers Get Angry


The ‘customer from hell’ is something most service team have experienced at one time or another. They’re red faced and angry, and refuse to accept anything other than a 100% capitulation by the party they perceive as guilty.

Untrained and unprepared sales team members can become catalysts that intensify the customer’s already considerable ire and take the state of affairs past the point of reconciliation. What usually happens is that the salesperson feels like he or she is under personal attack and wants to either fight back or run away – the last thing they want to do is take the blame for someone else’s failure.

If the customer leaves the place of business without having resolved their issue they will do all they can to tell the world, or at least all of their acquaintances, their side of the experience. They’ll write letters to the newspapers and in the worst case scenario wind up on TV sharing their tale of woe with the station’s current affairs team.

Angry customers are a fact of life and any business that hasn’t developed a strategy to handle them is simply waiting for the time bomb to explode.  Thankfully, there are ways to deal with this kind of customer that will defuse the situation and pave the way for customer retention instead of alienation.  Imagine that you’re the person confronted by a ‘customer from hell’.  Here’s what you do:

      1.    Start by deciding within yourself that you will stay calm and find a solution. That way, at least one of
             you isn’t emotional and both of you are working for the same end.

      2.    Put yourself on the customer’s side of the fence. Something has made them angry. Try to see the
             problem from their perspective and communicate to them that you’re seriously concerned about their
             being upset.

      3.    This does not mean immediately admitting that the business has made an error; once you do that
             there’s no recovery from a losing position. But do say something like “I know you’re very concerned
             about this and I’ll do all I can to help you”.

      4.    Get the full story. What actually happened? Your questions will show you’re sincerely interested in
             getting to the bottom of the problem so make sure you get the complete picture. Be careful to avoid
             any impression that you’re ‘interrogating’ them though, or trying to find fault with them.

      5.    Check the details with the customer by repeating the situation as you understand it and get their final
             agreement that the facts are correct. Make notes if you think the situation is serious enough to
             warrant it.

      6.    Consider all the information in light of the business’ policies, any warranties or guarantees that may
             apply, and prevailing consumer legislation. Most of all think of what it will take to make this customer
             happy with the business again.

      7.    Propose your solution to the customer and gain their acceptance. It might not happen right away, so
             keep working until it does. Be sure that you have reached an agreement by asking: “Will that be
             acceptable to you?”

      8.    Implement the solution as soon as possible. If there will be any delay, set a date by which it should be
             finalised and make sure it is.

You can now see why it’s a good tactic to empower your customer service people with the ability to resolve such issues by themselves. Nothing’s worse than making the customer wait for ‘the manager’ to arrive. Wherever sensible make it possible for the salesperson to also be able to deal with customer complaints. It’s also good practice to build into your complaint resolution system a follow up with the customer a few days later as a goodwill gesture. This will be a reminder that you value their patronage and a reassurance that you’re looking forward to seeing them again.

Until next week,
Mike Reddy