A guide to dealing with angry and disgruntled customers


Share on LinkedIn

A dissatisfied customer will tell 9-12 people about their experience, and about 13% of them tell more than 20 people.

Now that’s for a dissatisfied customer, imagine how much worse it would be in the case of an angry customer!

Businesses are not perfect, we make mistakes and we may sometimes fail to deliver, but the hard truth is, a customer usually isn’t forgiving and just one screw up is more than enough to lose them forever if you don’t take the right countermeasures.

In this article, we look into a step-by-step approach you should adopt to handle situations like this:

1. Get rid of all your emotions first

A customer is sitting across the table and they are very angry at you, fuming in fact; this is the time for you to use your emotional intelligence to resolve the situation.

But you cannot objectively assess the situation if you are caught up in your own emotions – anger, guilt, defensiveness etc.

Hence, the first thing you need to learn to do is – don’t take the problem personally. Look at it as just another business transaction and don’t let your emotions guide you.

For example, if you angrily defend yourself and your company, you will end up losing the customer and also, they will spread a bad word-of-mouth about you.

Stay cool and collected.

2. Breathe in, breathe out, speak softly

In sensitive situations like these, how you present yourself is very important. In fact, the tone of your voice can make all the difference between pacifying and aggravating your customer. Raised voice, even if it’s your natural way of speaking, can offend the customer, fueling their anger even further.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep a calm and study voice.
  • Never interrupt when the customer is speaking.
  • Don’t throw fake smiles at them.
  • If you want to say something, wait for a pause in the customer’s speech.
  • There should be no arguing – listen and answer, that’s all.

3. Find out the root cause of the issue

Now, ask your customer for some time to completely look into the problem.

Before even thinking about a solution, really understand the problem at its root level. Make sure to analyze and understand what can be done to correct the problem and avoid repetition with any other future customers.

Your due diligence will help you communicate better with the customer and come up with solid corrective measures to present to them.

4. Arrange a personal meeting or a face-to-face with the customer

Make sure you are face-to-face with your customer when pitching a corrective measure for the problem, to the best of your ability. If not, a phone call might be the next best option.

Remember, don’t try to solve the issue on email – you won’t have the same kind of impact.

Here are a few problems with trying to pacify an angry customer via email:

  • Emails lack the personal touch.
  • When you propose your solution via email, you won’t get to assess how pleased or satisfied the customer is. For example, if you talk to them personally and you infer from the customer’s tone that they are not fully satisfied, you can give them a discount or an offer as another attempt at apologizing.

Additionally, a customer is more satisfied when a solution is presented by the authorities of the company, rather than the customer service person.

At my startup, Hiver, I personally check-in with my customers regularly to ensure that I am aware of the issues they may be facing, right away. This has helped me build a level of trust and strong rapport with them.

5. Don’t make excuses – apologize and own the problem

Maybe you are wrong, maybe you aren’t, doesn’t matter!

Remember, in business, the customer is always right. Even if you think what happened wasn’t entirely your fault, maybe there were some unpredictable external situations that led to this problem, no matter what the justification is – keep it to yourself.

Apologize to the customer and tell that you will take complete responsibility for it, even before you resolve the problem.

Here’s the deal – if you admit it, take responsibility, and resolve the issue, there are better chances for the customer to forgive you rather than if you blame others and justify yourself.

6. Correct it

Did you know that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience? I would get started if I were you.

It’s now the time to get into action and make it up to the customer.

When correcting the problem, always go overboard. For example, the other day, my coffee wasn’t as good as usual, so, as is my right, I complained to the barista. He not only brought me a fresh cup of great coffee but also some nice homemade chocolate, as an apology.

Now that’s how you pacify a disgruntled customer.

7. Follow up and follow up again

Always make sure to follow up with customer after sufficient time to ensure that the corrective measure is effective. A phone call can demonstrate personalized attention and care.

I recommend that you follow up twice. Once, a few days after the corrective measure was implemented and again after one month.

The follow up after a month would be when the customer’s anger has subsided and the corrective measure is working effectively – this would be a great time to build loyalty and put to rest any residual negative feelings they may have regarding the incident.

Wrapping Up

One powerful point you need to take away from this whole article is this – diffuse your customer’s anger with kindness and empathy. That’s the only way you can truly resolve their problem, gain their trust back and retain them. How you react to situations will determine how your organisation will be perceived by the customers – make sure to keep that in mind.

Niraj Ranjan
Niraj is the founder of Hiver (formerly GrexIt), an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He's a fusion music aficionado, loves to play the guitar when he can.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here