We have all been angry customers. We have also had to deal with angry customers. A customer can be anyone who has been involved in a transaction or deal. Such transactions or deals need not be confined to the world of business, and indeed it is more accessible to generalise. An angry customer is someone who feels that the transaction or deal has gone sour for them. They may feel exploited, cheated, undercut or overcharged. They want someone to listen to them. You want resolution. What matters to both of you is empathy.
Related: What is customer service?
Everyone knows the best way to deal with anyone who feels that they have a right to be angry at you or something you stand for is an apology. The rest of the article is not filler but an approach to a more pragmatic way of thinking and delivering the apology. The sorry is the start, and the heart of the message and the customer should know that. The angry customer should walk away with the apology, a resolution and hopefully a changed perception. The resolution and the changing in perception is what follows.
We have all had to deal with this situation and consequently there is a range of language to deal with it. The skill used to deal with angry people generally is negotiation and this is no different for the customer. The angry customer situation has arisen because the customer’s expectations have not been met by either the product or service offered or by the deal itself. The customer may be angry because of poor performance of the product, lack of understanding of it or the transaction, or even bad media coverage. An example of angry customers could be those of Vodafone (which has the worst Trust Pilot score I’ve ever seen and makes for entertaining reading.)
Can it be the case that the customer’s anger is not legitimate or it is misplaced? Yes, this can be the case, however, if it is, then what’s the incentive to drive the anger towards your company? Your product may be associated with something that the angry customer has a grievance with or it may be that this type of customer tends to find faults with all products or services. In both cases, it would be worth evaluating whether you are pitching the right people in the most efficient means.
The resolution is the fix to what made this customer angry. Explaining to your customer how it will be resolved gives you the opportunity to show that this person means enough to you and your business to permanently change your ways so that this scenario does not happen again. The resolution, therefore, deserves the right message.
The right message
Getting the right message across is even more important when negotiating with an angry customer. You have to put the message in terms they can understand, and the most effective means of doing this are getting them to give it to you. Giving an angry customer the opportunity to rant will give you the opportunity to explore their justification. Understanding why someone thinks and feels the way they do will give you the tools to deliver your message and dispel their anger.
The tools to deliver your message
These tools are words. There are specific words that we like to rely upon. These words form the core of our vocabularies. Words often used in the vocabulary of anger and frustration are hate, not, why and don’t. While these words are unhelpful, there will be words that a customer will say that will have meaning for them. Demonstrating your understanding of their anger with the use of these words will resonate with them. Relay their words back to them in a different structure and with the same meaning. The next part of your resolution is the re-pitch.
Demonstrate your understanding
The angry customer is still a customer. That implies at some point this individual valued your offering enough to part with money for it, or that they intended to. This aspect of your company, product or service is what appealed most to them and to remind them of this demonstrates your understanding and more importantly allows you to remind this person what makes your company great. The understanding is as much about the reason why your customer is angry as it is about the anger itself. Demonstrating your understanding that this person is upset is expressing your empathy. Delivering your explanation as to why their upset gives you the scope to change this angry perception.
To summarise this article, the most overwhelmingly important aspect is to remain calm. If you remain calm, then the rest should naturally follow.