5 Easy-to-Master Tips To Calm an Angry Customer By Hannah Karanja

If you are in customer service, chances are, at one time or another, you will have to deal with an angry customer.  I wish I could guarantee you that this will never happen but unfortunately, I can’t. Angry customers are just the reality of life. (If you’ve worked in customer service and have never had to deal with an angry customer, give yourself a big pat on the back…).

On the flip side, dealing with an angry customer does not have to be a death sentence. There are some Tested, Tried and True ways to diffuse the situation, AND even turn the customer into a loyal one. Winning him over with kindness or sortsHere’s the thing to remember –

When a customer is angry, he is not upset with you per se. Something somewhere went wrong and left him dealing with a raw emotional wound.

Not dealing with the situation in the right way could cause more emotional pain to the customer. It’s like rubbing salt on an open wound. So how exactly can you deal with the situation to turn the irate customer around?

By giving him emotional first aid with these 5 easy communication tips.

Tip#1. Speak Slowly

Studies show that human beings speak an average or 120 words per minute. (Men may argue that women speak more than that but I’ll leave you to decide). When we are angry, we tend to speak faster (and louder) than normal. When dealing with a loud, fast-talking, angry customer, it is very tempting to speak as fast, (and as loudly), as the customer – Please don’t take the bait!

Instead, hard as it may be, speak slowly, stay calm and hold your cool. (Even if you so desperately want to grind your teeth at him.) Apologize and let him know that you are there to help him. Empathize with the situation that he is in by saying, “I can see why you are upset.” This makes the customer feel like you are on common ground.

Chances are, the angry customer will soon start to mirror your tone and slow down. This then makes it easier for you to communicate with him and in the process, get to the bottom of his pain. Remember, no matter how angry the customer is, sooner or later, he will run out of steam.

Tip#2. Use Helpful Language:

When a customer is angry, chances are that he will not be making any sense. It is very important to ask a few questions in order to understand the situation. Unfortunately, you may not get a chance to get a word in. To get through to him, say;

“I really want to help you, so allow me to ask you a few questions first.”

This lets him know that you have his interests at heart. Keep repeating this phrase using an empathic voice. Sooner or later, he will start to give you the information that you need. Often, customers are angry because they feel ignored. Repeating “I really want to help you” will make him feel like someone is finally taking him seriously.

Tips#3. Use the 80/20 Rule:

When a customer is angry, his main focus will be on what happened or what went wrong. In response, do not dwell on what happened. Instead, focus on what you are going to do to help.

This is called the 20/80 rule; spend 20% of your time reiterating on what happened to ensure that you got the facts right, then the other 80% talking about the solution. Say;

“Now this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to…
 (outline the specific steps you are going to take).”

Use words that show that you are treating the situation with urgency. Words like “immediately”, “as soon as possible”, “first thing tomorrow morning” etc. When you give a detailed outline of the solution, the customer is forced to pay attention and this then puts you in control of the situation.

Tip#4. Avoid the words “But” and “However”

As much as possible, avoid giving good news and following it with the words “But” or “However”. Let me explain…

In English grammar, the words “But” and “However” cancel the first part of a sentence. So if you give good news to a customer then use these words, it means that the good news is no longer valid. (Imagine someone saying to you, “I love you but…” It means that he does not love you. Run!!…)
If you do not want to aggravate the situation, do not give good news to the customer then follow it with “But” or “However” (seriously don’t!)

Tip#5. Let Him Go…

I left this point for last…

Image: putripuspita.com

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, there may be times when a customer will be COMPLETELY unreasonable. Some customers will go as far as using abusive language and hauling racial or sexist remarks at employees. It is important to let the customer know that this is completely UNACCEPTABLE! In this case, give him a warning. You can say;

“Your language is completely unacceptable and if you do not stop, we shall ask you to leave.”

A reasonable customer will back down but if worst case scenario he does not, then issue him with a warning. Give 2 warnings then finally say,

“This is the final warning. If you do not stop.…”

When this fails, do not hesitate to let him go. Unfortunately, such customers kill the morale of the staff and also affect the comfort of the other customers.
Let me state that letting a customer go should be the absolute last resort. To get to this stage, you must have exhausted all the possible techniques to get him to calm do.

Final Thoughts

An angry customer can be an employee’s worst nightmare but dealing with him does not have to be difficult. It just requires wit and strategy as outlined above. This will help you win the customer over.

  • Speak slowly and do not allow yourself to be dragged into a shouting match.
  • Use helpful language to show the customer that someone is finally ready to help
  • Use the 20/80 rule of putting more weight on the solution as opposed to the problem
  • Avoid “But” and “However” after good news as these words cancel the first part of a sentence.
  • Finally, if all the tricks in the book fail, you may have to make a decision to let the customer go.
Think about it this way;
A fisherman goes out to fish and catches hundreds of fish in his net. Unfortunately, one lone fish keeps tagging at the net. The fisherman has to make a decision; does he keep the fish and risk losing all the fish in the net? Or does he let the one fish go?

In this case, it is better to let that one fish go, in a bid to saving his net and keeping the other fish. The lone fish, in this case, is the angry customer who despite your best efforts, has proven to be a threat to your business.

Have you ever had to deal with an angry customer? How did you deal with the situation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.


Hannah Karanja is a Kenyan Customer Service enthusiast who is on a mission to turn people into Customer Service gurus. She helps people win over customers through her blog www.softskillstipsandtricks.com. She is happiest when she is helping others and doubles up as a keynote/motivational speaker. 

Never one to sit still for long, Hannah is an adrenaline junkie who loves adventure and is always looking for the next exciting thing to do. Reach out to her on Hannah.karanja@softskillstipsandtricks.com and say hi!

Published by

Kelechi Okeke

Kelechi Okeke is a Customer Experience Analyst in a leading financial institution in sub-Saharan African. He helps businesses develop strategies that improve customer loyalty and enhance profitability. He is also a customer service trainer, content developer and graphic designer

2 thoughts on “5 Easy-to-Master Tips To Calm an Angry Customer By Hannah Karanja”

  1. Dearest Hannah,
    Thank you very much for your kind advice on dealing with angry customers. In fact, the advice goes for how to deal with angry people in general and nowadays people get angry for practically no reason. Your words are simple and easy to follow, thank you again 👌🌷I love the power of kindness message; indeed very powerful.
    Wish you all the best dear,
    See you soon ☺☺

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