Ten top tips: Dealing with an angry customer

Is one of your clients seeing red? Mario Dolcezza explains how to calm them down.

by Mario Dolcezza
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
These days, it only takes two minutes to tarnish a business’ reputation by posting unflattering reviews on the internet, or reporting them to Watchdog. So, as a business owner, it’s more important than ever to know how to deal with angry customers.

We asked customer service expert Mario Dolcezza, whose company Diciamo helps businesses engage with their clients, for his top tips on dealing with an irate customer.

1. The customer isn’t always right - but they are always a customer
Whatever the situation is, customers should at least be treated with professional courtesy. You don’t have to agree with them – but you must always treat them with respect.

2. Hold your customers in high regard
Acknowledge that your customers have the right to be upset with you, and treat them with respect accordingly. By holding them in high regard you ensure the opportunity to repair difficult circumstances.

3. There may be more than one problem
If your customer is really upset, chances are there have been a succession of ineptitudes. It’s important to know this so you understand why the customer has reached the end of their tether.

4. Let the storm blow out
Let the customer sound off. Wait until they’ve finished being angry – never interrupt, never argue – but do acknowledge you are listening by using phrases like ‘I see and ‘of course’.

5. Be detached
Don’t take complaints personally. If you can detach yourself personally from customer criticism, you have a much better chance of looking at the problem objectively.

6. Empathise
Use sympathetic phrases like ‘I understand how you feel’ and ‘you must be very disappointed’.

7. Don’t make excuses
Having aired their grievances, your customer should feel calmer and happier, but it’s important you don’t take a step backwards by making excuses. If it’s your company’s fault, confess and apologise.

8. Offer solutions
… and if possible, allow the customer to choose what works best for them. If your company’s in the wrong, you should be the ones putting yourselves out to put things right.

9. Take ownership of the problem
Ensure the customer knows you’re taking them seriously. Give them your name and contact details. If possible, use direct numbers rather than a switchboard.

10. Manage expectations
Let the customer know what you’re going to do and when. A customer won’t necessarily expect you to resolve the problem there and then, but if you need to investigate, tell your customer, letting them know when you’ll be in touch. A structured plan of resolution will give them a sense that their problems are being taken seriously.

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