How to Communicate with Angry Customers: 15 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.

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

  • Recognize and respect the customer.
  • Observe the customer’s history with the brand.
  • Understand the nature of the relationship.
  • Consider the customer’s knowledge level, personality, and tone
  • Value the customer genuinely.

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.


If you have a loyal subscriber that encounters a recurring technical issue, appeal to their history with the brand. You might say: “I want you to know that we truly appreciate your loyalty to our brand over [how many] years. I’ve noticed you’ve been a valued customer, and we’re grateful for your continued support. Given your extensive knowledge and the friendly tone you’ve always brought to our interactions, I want you to rest assured that we take your concerns seriously.”

#2. Listen well

  • Avoid cutting off the customer. 
  • Let them vent. 
  • Focus on the content, not the tone.

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.


If a customer contacts your support team upset about a late delivery, your agent should listen patiently. Let the customer get their concerns off their chest before responding. You might put them at ease by starting the call with: “I’m here to listen and assist you, so please go ahead and share your concerns. I won’t interrupt so I can understand the details of the issue you’re facing. Your feedback is valuable, and we’ll work together to resolve the problem.”

#3. Respond sincerely

  • Offer a specific apology if the brand is at fault.
  • Utilize the PIA Principle: Power word, ‘I’ statement, Assurance of resolution.

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 (e.g., “I’m sorry”), ‘I’ statement (take responsibility), and Assurance of resolution (promise to fix the issue).


If a customer receives a defective product, don’t hold back. Apologize for the inconvenience. Here’s what to say to an angry customer to put the PIA Principle into action: “I’m sorry that you received a faulty product. I’ll personally make sure we send you a replacement right away.” Pull up their account and check to see the options available for them.

#4. Dig deeper

  • Ask for details and clarification.
  • Identify underlying problems.
  • Offer the best solutions after a thorough investigation.

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.


You might have to uncover the reason behind an incomplete shipment. Maybe items are missing due to a warehouse error in packing. Encourage more info by saying: “I appreciate you sharing the details of your issue. To ensure I can address this effectively, could you clarify a few points? Once I have a complete picture, I’ll be able to offer you the most suitable solutions to resolve this matter to your satisfaction.”

#5. Acknowledge the problem

  • Note down the details.
  • Repeat the problem to the customer for confirmation.
  • Assure the customer they’re in good hands.

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.


It’s as simple as saying: “Just to ensure I have everything accurately: You’re experiencing [describe the problem]. Is that correct? Let me know if you have additional concerns. We’re fully committed to resolving this issue for you.”

#6. Propose a plan of action

  • Take ownership.
  • Detail the steps for resolution.
  • Provide follow-up details: extension, email, or ticket number.

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.


This could include providing your customer with a tracking number for a replacement product, ensuring they know when to expect it. You might say: “I’m here to personally handle your concern. To resolve this issue, let me outline the steps we’ll take. After our call, I’ll work on this and provide you with an extension to reach me directly. Additionally, I’ll send you an email with a reference number for your convenience, ensuring a smooth follow-up process.”

#7. Use positive language

  • Avoid negative phrases.
  • Offer alternatives in positive terms (“We can certainly do that for you.”).
  • Convey what you can do for the customer.

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.


A difficult 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

  • Avoid a rigid approach.
  • Provide multiple solutions for unhappy customers.
  • Empower the customer with choices.

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.


Offer an angry customer different ways to address an issue, like expedited delivery of missing items or a discount on their next purchase. You might say: “We believe in flexibility, so I’d like to offer you a range of solutions. You’re in the driver’s seat here. We can explore various options to find the one that suits you best.”

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

  • Inform the customer about the transfer.
  • Provide details of/to the receiving agent.
  • Ensure a warm handover.

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.


If technical issues require specialized support, clearly communicate why the transfer (and additional waiting time) is necessary. A smooth transition lets the customer know they’re not being abandoned and that they’ll soon be speaking with an expert. You can improve customer satisfaction by making transfers painless.

#10. Assure customers their feedback is helpful

  • Note their feedback.
  • Assure them you’re forwarding feedback to relevant teams.
  • Make customers feel valued and involved.

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.


If a customer provides feedback on a specific product feature, you can thank them for their input, assure them it will be shared with the product development team, and express your gratitude for helping improve your products. Let them know their input is integral to your brand’s growth.

#11. Practice active empathy

  • Show understanding of the customer’s emotions. 
  • Avoid blaming or defensiveness. 
  • Use empathetic statements.

Aggression, accusatory language, and public confrontation are all common when interacting with an angry customer. But offer support and reassurance as much as possible to defuse tension. Even if the issue isn’t the fault of your company, steer clear of blaming the customer or becoming defensive. When you remove anger from the equation, it’s a customer on the other side who just wants a positive experience going forward. Use empathetic statements like “I understand how frustrating this must be for you” or “I can see why you’re feeling this way” to show that you’re validating their emotions.


If a customer is frustrated with a billing error, practice active empathy by maintaining a calm and respectful tone while saying, “I understand how frustrating it must be to see an incorrect charge on your bill. I’m here to help resolve this for you.”

#12. Set clear, respectful boundaries

  • Clearly define what can and can’t be done. 
  • Avoid making unrealistic promises. 
  • Ensure the customer understands the brand’s policies.

Be transparent about what’s possible. In order to de-escalate the situation, an angry customer needs to know the extent you can actually assist them. Even when you need to communicate limitations or bad news, staying composed can build trust. Provide a brief, simple explanation for why you’re unable to fulfill their request. And avoid making promises that can’t be upheld. Unrealistic commitments can lead to further disappointment. 

If necessary, provide references or resources to help the customer understand company policies. Learning more can help them recognize that boundaries are not arbitrary but part of established standards.


If a customer requests a significant discount that goes against company policy, you can set clear boundaries by saying, “I understand your request, but our policy does not allow for discounts of that size. However, I can offer you a 10% discount as a goodwill gesture.” Or offer alternate solutions. Only commit to actions that are within your control and within the company’s policies.

#13. Stay updated on product and service changes

  • Regularly train and educate agents. 
  • Ensure awareness of current policies and procedures. 
  • Provide access to a knowledge base. 

Agents hold the power to turn things around. Knowledge and authority are important skills in customer service. That’s why you should regularly train and educate your agents on product or service updates via workshops, webinars, etc. 

Provide agent access to FAQs, manuals, and training docs for quick reference. When your team is up-to-date, they can answer angry customers more accurately and with confidence. Consistency in adhering to return policies, warranty information, and any other customer-related protocols is also essential for customer trust. What your agents say to an angry customer and how they convey information will make all the difference.


Take a proactive approach and keep agents updated on recent product changes. When an angry customer asks about a new feature, your agent can explain how it benefits the customer. They’ll appreciate when the agent anticipates their needs and can recommend relevant products or services.

#14. Offer a follow-up

  • Follow up with a thank-you email or courtesy call. 
  • Ask for feedback on their experience. 
  • Show that you care about their long-term satisfaction.

Once the customer’s issue has been resolved, it’s important to follow up promptly! As unpleasant as the things an angry customer says are, a path to happiness remains. If they didn’t care, the customer wouldn’t bother reaching out at all. After their complaint, acknowledge the importance of their business and express gratitude for allowing you to assist them. Saving the relationship with a customer depends on effective communication.

A thank-you email or courtesy call demonstrates that your team cares about the customer’s experience. It also gives the customer the opportunity to voice any additional concerns or feedback. Invite them to share their thoughts on what went well and where there might be room for improvement. You’ll open the door for ongoing interaction and relationship-building.


If you send a replacement product to resolve a late delivery, follow up with an email thanking the customer for their patience. Ask if they received the replacement product on time.

#15. Learn and iterate

  • Encourage continuous learning.
  • Collect feedback from your agents.
  • Incorporate customer feedback.

Getting blasted by an angry customer magnifies stress significantly, and even the most calm, cool, and collected agents may buckle. To set them up for success, encourage continuous learning among your customer service team. Agents who aren’t prepared to handle angry customers just hope to survive in the moment as saving the relationship seems like a lost cause. You can avoid agent burnout by collecting feedback from them on what strategies work best with angry customers. You can also apply valuable insights from customer feedback to improve your customer service process.


If your customer service team notices an increase in angry customer interactions, you can identify a root cause. It may be related to a new software update and customers are finding it challenging to adapt. Roll out training sessions for agents specifically designed to address the software changes. Knowing common user challenges helps agents calm angry customers effectively.

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.