Handling the Very Upset Customer


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Peeved Customer

If you have a job in service industry, it is almost inevitable that you’ll encounter a disgruntled customer who is very unhappy about the product or service received. So what happens when you’re face to face with a Customer who’s a few moments away from blowing a fuse or pouring out his/her anger on you?

In my experience i have come to realize that a lot of Service reps, especially in the Small and Medium Enterprises are ill-trained on handling aggrieved Customers, and they end up losing business because the reps fail to properly handle the delicate situation. It is not enough to train them on how to treat Customers warmly and courteously, it’s very important that they also know how to handle an aggrieved Customer.

An angry Customer actually has two issues in one, that both need addressing. First you have to manage his emotions, then you have to fix his problem (as fast as possible).

How you react to the aggrieved Customer at the first instance goes a long way in determining what the outcome would be. You can either react

  • Defensively
  • Indifferently or in
  • A friendly manner

Most human beings tend to react defensively by default, when faced with an unpleasant confrontation, and having to soothe an upset Customer isn’t something anybody looks forward to, the Customer walks in with a determined gait, and stress lines etched across his forehead glaring around him, and then his gaze falls upon your desk and he starts approaching you; what do you do?

“I want to close my account, you people are fraudsters, and you don’t even know how to run a business”

“I don’t care!! Change this product or give me back my money!!!”

“Look here man! I don’t want you to talk, just fix this mess!”

The list goes on and on, morphing from business to business, but then you haven’t done anything wrong to this individual, hell you don’t even know him from Adam (why the hell is he screaming at me?!) While it’s true that it’s not usually your fault that angry Customers get angry, you must remember that you’re the face of the business, the human side he can vent on (it’s either that or he might throw in a Molotov cocktail through the window)


You go defensive: “Can you stop shouting, Sir?” “It’s not my fault” “I’m not the person you should be talking to” “That’s our policy” “Can you calm down?” (Customer’s should know their place right?) And so should you, remember this:


No matter what you say to exonerate yourself, being defensive will only make the Customer even more upset. He would think:

I’m about to lose my money

This people think I’m stupid

Such thoughts will make the Customer work harder (get angrier) to get his money back or prove to you that he’s not ‘stupid’. Which is why going Defensive is a very bad idea.


You ignore the Customer (he can’t be shouting at you and expecting you to give him your best smile can he?), so you just let him rant, when gets tired then you can both talk like civilized persons. Well…this approach is even worse (especially if you’re chewing on gum), the Customer would think:

The folks here think I’m not important (I’ll show them who I am)

Are you kidding me?! She’s not even paying attention

This approach to handling Customers can easily deteriorate to physical exertions by the already upset Customer (he might bang on your desk to restore your sense of empathy, or return with a katana)


You quickly imagine your best friend has come to your office to complain about a product or service you gave to him, you’d flash a good smile wouldn’t you?

Show empathy as the Customer explains the issue, and if the Customer is making a scene politely usher him to somewhere private and give him all your attention until he’s finished talking.

“Oh my God, I am terribly sorry, you have every right to be upset, please have a seat, let’s fix this”

“This is completely unacceptable, let me see what I can do to make it right for you”

“Please come with Sir, I am embarrassed that you had to experience that, let me lead you to the right person who can fix that for you”

Saying something along those lines will no doubt douse some of the anger, which is a good start, following up and ensuring that the issue is fairly resolved in manner suitable for both parties (Customer and business) is the next line of action.

If as a Service Rep, if you come across a situation that you really don’t know how to resolve fairly, for Christ’s sake, refer the issue to your supervisor, he has more experience than you do. (Don’t say no to a Customer, unless you’re convinced beyond all doubt that it’s the only answer possible).

If the Customer’s complaint gets resolved successfully, apologize for the inconvenience and let the Customer know you always have his interest at heart. This will create a good impression of you and your organization on the Customer’s mind.

Kelechi Okeke
Kelechi Okeke has dedicated over a decade to assisting organizations in elevating their customer experience strategies by empowering them with invaluable insights, innovative solutions, and fostering a customer-centric mindset. As the visionary founder of the award-winning CX website cxservice360.com, he is on a mission to enhance global customer experience practices


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