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Communicating with the Angry Customer: 10 Quick Tips

Communicating With the Angry Customer

Customer service is tasked with meeting and exceeding expectations, but the truth is this effort to lock in loyalty doesn’t always go according to plan. It also doesn’t take an increase in inquiries during the holiday season to apply extra pressure to your customer service team.

Everything changes in an instant when an angry customer takes their frustration to the front lines, no matter the time of year.

Getting blasted by an angry customer magnifies stress significantly, and even the most calm, cool, and collected agents may buckle. Agents who aren’t prepared to handle angry customers just hope to survive in the moment as saving the relationship seems like a lost cost.

But it doesn’t have to be. As unpleasant as the things an angry customer says are, a path to happiness remains. When you remove anger from the equation, it’s a customer on the other side who just wants a positive experience going forward. If they didn’t care, the customer wouldn’t bother reaching out at all.

Agents hold the power to turn things around. Knowledge and authority are important skills in customers service, but saving the relationship with a customer depends on effective communication. What your agents say to an angry customer and how they convey information will make all the difference.

Here are strategies your agents can use to calm angry customers and restore their faith in the brand.

10 Best Practices for Agents to Make Angry Customers Happy

The angry customer isn’t your enemy; the unsolved problem is. If you think of yourself as the customer’s best advocate — and your manner and temperament reflect that — you can steer the conversation in a positive direction and make the best of any situation.

Let’s turn those frowns upside down!

#1. Get a good sense of your customer

Angry customers are a diverse bunch. Some are curt, some are disrespectful, and some are downright hostile. What do they all have in common? Angry customers want to be recognized and respected.

Before you get caught up in the details of the complaint, focus on the individual you’re connected with. Observe the customer’s history with the brand to understand the nature of the relationship and how far back it goes. Pay close attention to the customer’s knowledge level, personality, and tone so you can engage them appropriately.

‘Fake it till you make it’ doesn’t fly in customer service. Customers pay you with hard-earned money, and in return they expect a quality of service that shows you value them.

#2. Listen well

Don’t cut the customer off midstream with an ill-timed “I’m sorry” or “I can help with that.” It’s an awkward, tone-deaf move that suggests you’re detached and eager to end the call, which will only add fuel to a raging fire.

If customers want to vent, let them vent! Hand over the microphone and give them time to air their grievances. Be the dispassionate investigator: focus on what’s being said, rather than the delivery itself.

#3. Respond sincerely

If your brand clearly made a mistake, a heartfelt and humble apology demonstrates care and accountability to validate the customer’s view. Make your apology specific to the complaint, and assure the customer you understand the hardship endured.

Maybe your brand didn’t engage in any clear wrongdoing. Well, an angry customer doesn’t care. If you find your brand in this situation, try the PIA Principle: Power word, ‘I’ statement, and Assurance you’ll resolve the issue.

Here’s an example of the PIA Principle in action: “Oh my, I can only imagine what you’ve experienced. Let me pull up your account. I can definitely check to see the options available for you”.

#4. Dig deeper

Ask the customer for details and clarification so you can identify underlying problems and demonstrate your commitment to solving them. After investigating the issue fully, you’ll be in a position to offer customers the best, most appropriate solution(s) —a great way to make an angry customer feel valued and possibly prevent future contact.

#5. Acknowledge the problem

Once you’ve jotted down the details and pieced everything together, repeat back what you’re hearing and ask for confirmation. Customers will know you’re paying close attention, you’re on their side, and they’re in good hands. This simple gesture can quickly diffuse anger and shift the dynamic in a big way.

#6. Propose a plan of action

Let the customer know you’re taking ownership of the situation. Explain exactly what you’ll do to solve the problem and what the customer can expect, then commit to following up afterward.

If possible, provide your direct extension or email address as well as a ticket number so customers can easily follow up with you and check the status of their inquiries. There’s no better way to show you’re on the case, you intend to follow through, and you’re accountable for the result. Customers will also feel better knowing they won’t have to start from scratch next time they call.

#7. Use positive language

An angry customer might ask for something you can’t deliver. Instead of saying “no” or “I can’t do that,” do what Apple Genius Bar experts are taught to do: frame answers in positive terms. With a smile on your face and a friendly tone, tell customers what you can do on their behalf.

#8. Offer multiple solutions

Bad brand experiences leave customers feeling frustrated and sometimes hopeless. A take-it-or-leave-it customer service approach can have the same effect. Whenever possible, offer angry customers at least two choices so they can control the outcome of their service experience.

This is especially important when you’re dealing with customers who are fed up and ready to abandon the brand. If you present several options both the customer and your brand can live with, you stand a good chance of salvaging the relationship.

#9. If a transfer is necessary, make it painless

If you need to transfer an angry customer to someone else on the team or in the company, make it a warm transfer. Tell the customer who will be helping them and how, and ask for permission to transfer the call. Make sure the receiving team member knows the customer’s name and is aware of the issue.

#10. Assure customers their feedback is helpful

Before ending or transferring the call, take a moment to let an angry customer know their feedback has been noted. Assure them you’ll forward the information to your superiors, and on to the relevant brand teams, so the customer experience (CX) can be improved and other customers can avoid similar frustrations.

This isn’t something many companies tell their customers, even if they do follow up on complaints internally. By letting your angry customers know they’re stakeholders in the brand, you’ll make them glad they called and leave a lasting impression.

Learn How to Respond to an Angry Customer Easily

Angry customers will tell you how they really feel, and yet all hope is not lost to retain them as long as your agents on the front lines remain composed. It’ll take some tweaking to your training and coaching, but soon enough agents will feel equipped to brush off harsh comments from a customer and flip anger to joy with a balanced approach to providing service.

Ready to ignite agent performance? Check out Medallia’s guide, 4 Steps to Supercharge Contact Center Agent Performance, to learn how leading contact centers are putting the right systems and processes in place to achieve success.