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This Is How to Handle Angry Customers

Written by
Noel Hooban

One of the few guarantees in business is that if you are in it long enough, you will deal with angry customers. This point is especially true in B2B selling, where the investment and the risks for your buyers are typically much greater than similar risks for consumers.

Successfully navigating conversations with upset customers requires a blend of thoughtful planning, quality coaching and poise under pressure. The following are some of the best tips for dealing with the situation should it arise with you.

Have the Right Attitude

Your attitude drives your behaviours, so a negative outlook toward an unhappy customer is unlikely to end well. Therefore, view an upset buyer as an opportunity to make things right, not only to retain the client and revenue but to leave the person feeling better about your brand.

Listen First

If you attempt to cut-in during a customer’s complaint, you not only display a lack of genuine interest in the problem, but you don’t allow the person to vent. Venting the frustration is often one of the things the angry client wants most. When you adopt a listening attitude without interruption, you enable the person to release tension. This approach creates the opening for you to respond effectively.

Use A First Name Basis

Use a person’s name when dealing with them. Don’t use titles such as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ or ‘Miss Jones’.

“I am so sorry Laura. Let me try and get that sorted for you immediately”, works much better. Being on a first-name basis with someone gives a much more powerful connection with someone and is less formal. Using their first name also puts you in the frame of mind that you are dealing with a real person, with a real job, that has real concerns.

Adopt a Calm Persona

There are two key things you can do when it is your turn to speak that can help calm you and the customer. One is to talk in a low voice. The other is to speak at a deliberate pace. Human instinct is to outdo an attacker in both volume and pace. The goal isn’t to win or dominate, though, it is to de-escalate and rectify.

Acknowledge Feelings

Regardless of what you intend to do in response to the problem, acknowledge the customer’s feelings. Don’t be trite, but show that you empathize with the frustration. You might say, “I know how important this solution is to your day-to-day operations, and want to work with you to get things where you want them.”

Work Toward Tangible Concerns

After allowing the client to vent, work toward tangible concerns that you can address. Offering many remedies to vile bitterness is hard. Instead, after the customer vents and the situation calms, invite him to tell you specifically what he expects you and your business to do.

Identify the Appropriate Remedy

You may have to request some time to explore options, but identify an appropriate remedy to the customer’s issue. If you can’t offer something in the moment, give a timeline for follow up. Failing to follow up with an angry client after a conflict conversation adds fuel to the fire.

Successful meeting

Show Gratitude

Thank the customer and show that you value him. More specifically, thank him for coming to you with the problem and giving you the opportunity to remedy it. In many cases, customers don’t come to you with their problems; they simply look for an alternative provider.

Wrap Up

These steps allow you to navigate the murky waters of dealing with an angry customer. It takes practice to remain poised in the beginning so you can de-escalate the tension. Only then can you work with the client toward an acceptable outcome.

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