Top 10 Things not to Say to Angry Customers


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When customers are angry, they require extra care, attention and understanding.

Imagine spending your hard-earned money for a product that fails to meet your expectations. It doesn’t take much to turn the most patient person upside down for the tiniest of reasons.

Handling a difficult customer isn’t about saying the “right” thing – rather, it’s about not saying the “wrong” thing at the most tempting moment.

image credit: astanita

Here are some things you shouldn’t say to a distressed customer and why, along with pointers on how to regain customer interest after the fact.

10. Don’t say “Can you wait a moment?”

Instead, say, “Unfortunately you’ll have to wait because…

Angry customers don’t have time to wait. They are already talking to you and waiting for the problem to be solved. In addition, and angry customer’s judgment is clouded and the longer they wait the more frustrated they become.

9. Don’t say “Sorry, but…

Instead, say, “I apologize for…

Saying “sorry” won’t fix the issue at hand. An angry customer is likely to call you out to the effect of “sorry won’t fix it”. Saying “but” effectively negates your previous point and invites the start of an argument. If you do apologize, do it sincerely.

8. Don’t say “Calm down.”

Instead, say, “I hope you understand.”

The worst thing you can do is order your customers around. Avoid cornering them into making a decision or playing down the issue. This is likely to backfire. Instead, use language that shows appreciation of your customer’s situation.

7. Don’t say, “The accounting department messed up.”

Instead, say, “I apologize for our…

When you shift the blame to another department or person, you’re showing the company as lacking organization and professionalism. Treat your company as a singular entity. Service reps need to know how to take and diffuse the blame.

6. Don’t say “According to our policy…

Instead, say “Due to security, legal, (etc) reasons…

When mistakes happen, customers don’t want to hear about your policies and regulations. Policies keep companies running smoothly and shouldn’t be used for hiding mistakes. At the same time, know how to get your policy across in layman’s terms.

5. Don’t say “It’s not my fault.”

Instead, say, “Let me see what I can do…

It’s important to be empathetic and be on the same emotional “page” with your customer. When you remove the blame from yourself, you distance yourself from your customer’s issue, which is not what you want to do, especially when they’re angry.

4. Don’t say, “So what do you want me to do?”

Instead, say, “What do you think of…

It’s not a good idea to show uncertainty. Instead, offer suggestions and if you can’t think of any, ask your customer what they would like see happen and work from there. Great customer support is all about finding the golden compromise between you and your customer.

3. Don’t say, “Let me speak/transfer you to the manager.”

Instead, say, “We can do…, and throw in a free…

Don’t throw the hot potato to your manager. Not only you’re adding fuel to the fire by forcing the customer to repeat their problem, you’re showing a lack of competence in your support department.

2. Don’t say, “To be brutally honest…

Instead, don’t say anything!

If you have to be “brutally honest” now, is there something stopping you from being honest the rest of the time? In short, understand how you’re coming across.

1. Offensive language, sarcasm, etc

The number one thing you shouldn’t say under any circumstances is anything that can be deemed offensive or sarcastic. Remember, you’re either dealing with your customer by phone or email, and over 90% of communication is non-verbal. This means your tone of voice or the text color in your email message is all your customers can work from. In other words, think before you act!

Remember, when you reach an agreement with your customer, it’s a good idea to offer something extra on the side, such as a freebie or a discount. Your (formerly angry) customer will be pleasantly surprised and you’ll turn them into brand advocates!

Nobody wants to deal with a nasty customer service situation

It’s just plain stressful and can ruin an otherwise good day. You can’t avoid confrontation and customer-service-Titanics forever, so try to approach every problem with a positive attitude. Remember that the most vocal, dissatisfied customers can be your loudest brand ambassadors. Following the above guidelines hopefully gives you more satisfied customers than you originally started with.


Vitaliy Verbenko
Vitaliy is a Marketing and Support Advocate at Helprace, a help desk and customer service software. He has been into customer service ever since he co-founded a small construction company five years ago. He holds a BA from Canada's Ryerson University.


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