Dealing with an Irate Customer


One of your most important clients just walked in the door. You stand up from your desk with a smile on your face when you notice you definitely aren’t getting one in return. The customer is on a rant and by the look on your face, you’re a bit scared. Maybe that you will lose their loyalty or in all honesty, you have no idea what’s going on. So what do you do to make things right?

Before you stick your foot in your mouth or lose a great client, check out these tips for on-the-ground PR. Hopefully these tips will help you resolve the situation more easily, and maybe even strengthen your relationship with your customer.

Step 1:

Ask more questions. Before you offer any solutions, clarify the situation. Ask the customer what happened, when it happened and who was involved. Do not use the words “please just calm down”. By asking questions you signal to your customer that you are interested in his/her feelings and want to resolve the problem.

Step 2:

Listen more than you talk. Don’t criticize your customer. More than likely, your customer wants to be heard. He/she doesn’t want to be told they are in the wrong. Make sure you are actively listening and nodding your head while doing so. Don’t plan out what you’re going to say or how you’re going to solve the situation while you’re listening to the problem. Actively listen! Have you identified the problem correctly? Repeat the problem after you listen to what happened to let the customer know you are engaged and concerned.

Once you become aware of the situation, put yourself in their shoes and begin brainstorming on how to make things right.

Step 3:

Propose a solution. Ask the customer: “How do I make this right? I’m sorry this situation upset you, but I’m here to help in any way I can now.” This language allows you to offer an apology without admitting fault.

If you’re uncertain of how to solve the problem give the customer the power to correct the issue. Ask the customer: “How do we fix this?” Using the word “we” implies you’ll be working together, which makes you a team and puts both on the same side again.

Sometimes a customer’s resolution just isn’t feasible. Be honest and admit you can’t fulfill that request. Follow up with a “counter offer”, but don’t insult your customer by offering a low-ball solution.

Once you’ve completed those steps, take action at resolving the issue. Tell the customer what you plan to do and when you plan on having it done. After solving the problem wait a few days or weeks then follow up with your customer. Following up after resolving an issue shows empathy and helps to keep a mutual bond in your previous and future relationships.

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