can flat-out ruin my entire
day. I know they shouldn't, but listening to
their complaints sucks the life right out of me.
It means we failed, not in the big picture
sense, but we failed at something and a customer
was affected...big time
Benjamin Franklin once said,"...but
in the world nothing can be said to be
certain except death and taxes."
Mr. Franklin was certainly right, but I
think we can add one more: the angry
It doesn't matter how good your products and
services are, there will always be someone
who needs a little extra care. Someone that
was overlooked, forgotten, mistreated, or
Please understand the reason
they're angry doesn't matter. Not one
Your immediate responsibility is NOT to
figure out if their anger is warranted. I've
seen that too many times; everyone gets into
a blame game about whose fault it is, or
that the customer is being unreasonable,
yada yada yada. It doesn't matter! You have
a paying customer that is pissed.
They don't want a full-on
investigation as to why they're pissed; they
just want you to make it right.
The good news is that every one of these
problems is an opportunity for you to be
remarkable; to surprise and astound, to
regain a customer's confidence and leave
them feeling better about your company than
before there was a problem. I have started
using the following six steps in resolving
these issues. The process has worked well
for me, but every company and issue is
unique, so let's hear your critique and
other suggestions in the comments. Also, by
no means do these steps need to be done in
this specific order. You'll have to figure
that out on a case-by-case basis.
Thank them for their feedback
right, you should thank your customer for
berating you. This is especially true for
written communication (email, letters, etc).
Your customer has taken time out of their
day to express their dissatisfaction with
your company. They didn't do it for their
health, they expect you to do something
about it. Your really good customers do it
solely with the intent that you'll learn
from it and get better.
YOU DO IT
Every experience has momentum. You must
start off on the right foot and switch the
momentum back to your side. When a customer
is unhappy, the momentum of the experience
is solely on their side. They are
controlling the experience with their anger
and it is your job to change that. Thanking
them is the quickest and easiest way to do
it. Nobody likes yelling at someone who is
YOU DO IT
It doesn't need to be long and drawn out,
Thanks for giving us your feedback on
That's it. Let them know their time was not
wasted. This gives them the immediate
perception that you are going to act on
their feedback and it starts you down the
path of turning a loss into a win.
Acknowledge Your Ignorance
chances are you don't know what the customer
knows (if you did they wouldn't be cursing
at you like a sailor), and you certainly
won't have the customer's
perception of the issue.
YOU DO IT
Because you are ignorant. Not in
the sense that you're an idiot, but in the
sense that you probably don't have all the
details. This is very typical for front line
CSR's and for issues that have been quickly
escalated to a higher level of support.
YOU DO IT
Again, you don't need to go into detail
about why you're ignorant on their issue,
I feel like I don't have all the details
on this issue. Could you please explain
yada-yada-yada to me again?
If you're writing an email response and you
feel you can get all the details you need
without talking to the customer, then you
can say something like:
I'm out of the loop on this issue right
now, but I've already started looking
into the details and I'm going to get
back with you right away.
Not only does this bide you some extra time,
it allows you to get more information (from
the customer and/or your coworkers) and
should act to calm the customer down some.
Empathize with Their Situation
you have all the details, you can show your
customer some heartfelt empathy. Personally,
this has been tough for me. You need to be
really genuine, otherwise it can come off as
judgmental and patronizing.
YOU DO IT
People like to be understood and they want
you to relate to them. They want you to feel
their pain so you'll act on their issue
right away. "If they only knew how much
trouble this was causing me..." I know
you've thought that before...I definitely
YOU DO IT
You don't need to be specific on how you can
relate to your customer's problem. Trust me,
they don't want to hear all about your
problems when you should be fixing theirs.
Say something like this:
This kind of thing has happened to me
before and I can completely understand
why you're upset. I felt the same way.
This shows them, without agonizing detail,
that you understand their plight and can
relate to their feelings.
Apologize (don't just say you're sorry)
to sprinkle this one around everywhere; I
certainly do. All of these steps are
important, but this is the most effective
way to diffuse a hot-headed customer.
Oh, and in case you didn't know, there's a
difference between sincerely apologizing and
merely saying, "I'm sorry."
YOU DO IT It shows the
customer that you care about their business
and that you feel genuinely sorry for
letting them down. Angry customers often
feel like you don't give a flip about them;
reversing those feelings isn't easy, but
giving them a sincere apology is a great way
to right the ship.
YOU DO IT
Sincerity is key
here, but there's something even more
important. You must ask for
It never ceases to
amaze me how a sincere apology and a plea
for forgiveness can turn the conversation
right on its head. Say something like:
I'm very sorry this happened. Will you
please accept our sincere apology?
And then stop talking. Let that question
settle in for a couple seconds. Your
customer will lead you right into step
"Ok...that's fine...what are you going
to do about it?"
(This is how they
accept your apology). Well, Mr. Customer
that I love so dearly, let me tell you...
This is where you make the magic happen. I
can't comment in depth about what you should
do or how you should do it, you will have to
figure that out depending on your company
and the situation. I will tell you one thing
that's crucial. After taking whatever
action was necessary to completely rectify
the situation, I ask myself a question:
"What else can I do?" It's a simple question
and the answer has never been "nothing."
There's always something else you can do to
go the extra mile, to wow them, to
. It will make the next
step much easier and pleasant.
After you have your once-angry customer all
blissed out again, you must follow up with
them. A day, a week, a month; whatever time
frame is appropriate. Maybe all of them.
Again, this will be dependent upon your
company and your relationship with the
customer. You may even need to get the
customer's permission for this.
YOU DO IT
It solidifies the relationship and it
reminds them that you went out of your way
to turn a bad situation into a remarkable
experience. Oh, and you may get a sale or
some extra work out of it (which would be
pretty awesome, right?).
YOU DO IT
Whenever possible, you should always do this
by phone. I tell them I'm calling about the
prior situation and that I wanted to make
sure everything was going well since our
last conversation. You may say something
Hi Mr. Customer, this is Tim Sanchez
with Widgets-r-Us. How are you doing
today? Great, I just wanted to check in
and see if there was anything else we
could do for you.
With a little luck, you just might get an
extra sale or some work that you didn't
expect. You may also be surprised to get an
apology from your customer for calling you a
babbling buffoon...you never know what will
happen when you transform a customer from
angry to evangelist.
Question: Is this similar to
how you are currently handling angry
customers? How can we make this better?