How to Deal with an Angry Customer

It can be extremely difficult to stay calm and patient in the face of an angry customer — whether that angry customer is staring you in the face in person, on the phone, or even online or over social media.

If you don’t have a plan for when you inevitably become the target of a customer’s wrath, you might lose the customer, or let the toxic interaction seep into other tasks — and even your personal life.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when you’re dealing with an angry customer.


Don’t Take it Personally

As soon as you get a phone call from an angry customer, or once the customer is standing in front of you, it’s important to remind yourself of the most important tenet of customer service: It’s not personal, and you can’t control other people’s emotions. You can only control your own reaction. Whatever the customer is truly upset about has more to do with what’s going on in their life than it has to do with you. The best customer service reps really understand this.


Don’t Make it About You

As previously noted, this is all about customer. So don’t waste time explaining why things aren’t working.

Excuses like “I’m new here” or “We’re having problems with our new supplier” aren’t relevant to the customer. And comments like these might serve to further the customer’s agitation.

Rather than make excuses, use positive language to focus on just what can do to help. So instead of a response like, “We can’t ship a replacement today because we’re out of stock,” turn it into something like, “I’d be happy to ship you a replacement as soon as we can, very likely in the next few weeks, would that be okay?”


Use Empathy

Empathy is the basic human ability to understand what others are feeling by putting themselves in another’s shoes. It can go a long way toward appeasing an angry customer.

Verbalize your empathy with phrases like, “I understand that must have been extremely frustrating,” or “That sounds like it was really inconvenient.”

You’re letting the customer know that they’re being heard. Frustrated customers are often looking for validation as much as anything else. Once they get the feeling you’re in their corner, they’ll be much more likely to work with you rather than against you.


Try to Connect 

In addition to letting customers know that you empathize with them, it helps to try to connect with them in as many other ways as you can. You’ll make more progress if you’re able to use the same type of language and even find something in common with them personally. Sometimes even noting their geographic location in their customer file can make for a good starting point in finding common ground.

Another tip for connecting with a customer is to use their name instead of referring to them as “sir” or “ma’am,” which can sometimes sound impersonal or overly formal (especially if over-used).


Let Them Vent

Sometimes there’s little you can do other than give the customer a few minutes to go through his or her tirade. Instead of trying to interrupt, let the anger run its course so that the customer can move on.

Of course, sometimes they won’t move on. Perhaps they just wanted to use you as a verbal punching bag (again, it’s about them, not you) and have no intention of calming down. However, the best way to get through the call or interaction may be to simply listen for a minute or two until they feel they’ve said their piece.

One tip: If your customer is venting in-person in a public area, it’s a good idea to take them into a more private space – an alcove, hallway, private office, etc.



Despite the fact that you’re likely not personally at fault, a well-timed apology can go a long way toward calming an angry customer. An apology helps demonstrate empathy and signals that the customer is right – something they definitely need to hear. When you say you’re sorry, you are apologizing on behalf of the company and out of respect for the fact that they’ve had a poor experience.

Remember that to be the best customer-support rep and employee possible, you have to wipe the slate clean mentally after each angry customer. If you find yourself taking it personally or notice the experience nagging at you afterward, try to take some time to decompress. Being on the front lines of customer support can be stressful. If you constantly absorb negativity without a good outlet, the stress and frustration will likely spill over into your other work as well as your personal life. The good news is that with time and experience, these inevitable interactions with angry customers will continue to get easier.


Photo credit: johnhain /

No Comments

Post A Comment