Understanding the Irate Customer


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When dealing with an irate customer, how does your team manage the resolution process? Customer frustration and dissatisfaction is often manifested through emotional channels–anger, rage, raised voices, nasty words. While the real issue may not be as emotionally charged, it usually is displayed this way because too many businesses have conditioned their customers to openly display their unhappiness to be heard, seen or noticed.

Avoiding the public display of disatisfaction by your customers involves educating your team to recognize the non-verbal behaviors that reflect something less than delight. Many organizations delight themselves in their ability to difuse testy situations before they get out of hand. This is a valuable component for any business committed to improving customer experience. Imagine the power of the experience for the customer if your team had the skills to discover customer disappointment before they verbally express it. Now that would be a game changer.

Several weeks ago I came across a blog post where the author, Joseph Michelli talked about the importance of educating your employee to hear past the words being stated by an irate customer and de-escalate the situation to resolve conflict. Being a firm believer that the words are merely an expression of the frustration the customer feels about not being heard, this provides a very powerful training insight. Conflict resolution is not about recognizing there is a problem, conflict resolution is all about understanding what the problem really is! When your customers know they are being proactively responded to in a manner that reflects a clear understanding of the problem from their perspective, they will be less likely to be so reactive to less than effective customer service.

The challenge for organizations is that managing the conflict means creating a process that simply solves the problem. The first step is to put the customer issue into a process. This is the flaw — a standard process. These challenges are personal to the customer. They are personally attached to the reality of their issue. This is not the time for someone to simply plug into a process and solve the problem. This is a time for the customer service professional to first take the time to understand the problem from the customer’s perspective. Once they have learned what that issue is, they are now better prepared to take action the customer will appreciate and is more personal to the customer’s problems.

Understanding what the real issue is represents the key to effective customer service. It means being able to go beyond the complaint and really know what the customer wants. Put learning and empathy into your customer service program as the first step.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Cooke
I leverage my 25 years experience in sales and marketing to create and implement strategic initiatives and develop educational programs that increase both revenues and profits. I take great pride in my experience in turbulent, chaotic, and transitional work environments. It is from these experiences that I have developed my commitment to collaborative teams, strong internal and external relationships, effective communication, decisive leadership, and a cohesive, collaborative strategy as keys to sustainable revenue growth.


  1. I totally agree with your conclusion. Showing empathy and having that deeper understanding of what the customer wants is important. If we don’t know what to say, we can maybe transfer to a superior, right?


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