How to Deal with an Angry Customer
Every business encounters angry people. Not disappointed or confused, but actually angry. Here are a few steps you might want to try:
- Acknowledge the anger. You don’t have to agree with it, but in order to have a chance at making it go away, you need to empathize with the person’s anger. You cannot sell something (even a solution) nor can you negotiate with an angry person.
- Talk more quietly and more slowly than the person you’re talking with. Not an exaggerated mantra, but just enough that you will be de-escalating, not escalating.
- Ask the person what it will take to help them not be angry. Repeat what they’re asking for, in your own words.
- Ask them if that will not only solve their problem, but give your organization a chance to delight them.
- If no, then ask again what it will take. (But only once. You'll settle for a benign grudge if you can get one.)
[It’s important to note that so far I haven’t asked you to give them anything or to actually agree with their point of view. Just to understand it and recognize it. You cannot negotiate with an angry person. Doesn’t work.]
- Now, summarize. Human to human, not as a manipulator or someone following a list of steps read on a blog. “Sue, I’m really sorry you’re upset. I can imagine that having one of our room service people walk into your room at 11 pm, uninvited, and wake you up before a big conference could cost you a lot of sleep and really ruin your visit with us. It sounds like you’re hoping for an apology from our manager and a waiver of our internet fee as a way of showing you we really blew it. Would that help?”
Bingo. You’ve changed the dynamic. You’ve made it clear which side of the discussion you’re on. You haven’t set any expectations, but you’ve built a connection.
At this point, you have two options. You can describe what you CAN do, right now, in an attempt to make it up to the person. Or you can ask for time and promise to get back to the person after you’ve checked in with the higher-ups.
It’s entirely possible that the steps above won’t work. It’s entirely possible that Sue is so angry she’ll never ever return to your hotel again. That’s okay. You did what you can... but more important, you didn’t waste a lot of time and emotion and energy trying to solve a problem that’s not solvable.