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How To Convert Angry Customers Into Loyal Ones

Angry Customers Are A CX Opportunity - Dealing With Them Effectively Is A Critical Necessity For Any Good CX Program

Have you felt your patience wearing a little thin lately? Frustrated with the extra long lines at the grocery store? Annoyed that the item you’ve been wanting to order for weeks is still out of stock? Or dreading the realization that you forgot your mask at home—again?

Despite dealing with our own private struggles, we’re all living in the same overwhelming world in which a months-long pandemic has made our day-to-day lives more complicated. Tasks that were once simple and automatic now require careful calculation and planning. We’re stressed, emotionally exhausted, running on empty and, for some, still unable to go back to work. To make things worse, some places are entering a second wave of COVID-19 and facing more restrictions without a definitive answer on how much longer we’ll be battling this virus for.

All that to say: it’s not surprising that customers are a little on edge right now. And, if you work in customer service, that means your job has gotten a lot more difficult this year. 


With that in mind, I’m here to walk you through some practical tips for handling customer frustration during these trying times, including what to do and what not to do. But first, let’s talk about why diffusing customer anger is always in the best interests of your business.

Bad experiences drive customers away

Despite the extremes of human emotion you may be seeing right now in customer interactions, retaining customer loyalty is – and always will be – the most important key to success. The truth is, there are limits to how much dissatisfaction customers will tolerate.

According to PWC, one in three consumers say they will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. Not surprisingly, results from a study by Gartner show that when it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price.

In the event that you do get it wrong – which, let’s face it, happens sometimes – it’s more crucial than ever that you know how to diffuse any negative emotions toward your brand. How can you turn frustration into satisfaction and make sure your customers keep coming back? First, let’s make sure we understand what not to do.

7 ways to destroy customer loyalty (not recommended)

When developing a strategy for dealing with angry customers, it’s important to keep in mind that, in most cases, their anger is not about you – it’s about them. They’re likely not upset with you or intentionally trying to ruin your day. Something has gone wrong and you’re collateral damage.

And yet, here you are, facing a very unhappy human. How you respond in your words, tone, facial expression and actions will tip the scale toward either loyalty or defection. Here are the things that will definitely drive them away—and fast:

  1. Shame the customer. Blaming them for the issue may seem easier than accepting responsibility. But it’s way harder in the long run when it ends up costing you their business.
  2. Minimize their concerns. Every concern matters, regardless of how big or small. Remember, we’re in business to make customers’ lives better, not to win arguments.
  3. Make excuses. Customers view excuses as “stories” used to rationalize shortcomings. Or, in other words, nails on a chalkboard.
  4. Blame others for the situation. A defense strategy based on preserving your own self-esteem at the expense of your colleagues or brand hurts everyone.
  5. Take it personally. Allow me to repeat, it’s not about you – it’s about them and whatever else has gone wrong in their day or week.
  6. Get angry. Nothing has ever been resolved through stomping and screaming. Even a toddler knows that.
  7. Raise your voice. Even if you’re not yelling, using a loud or aggressive tone simply antagonizes the customer. Always raise your words, not your voice.

These tips may seem like common sense, but in the middle of a tense interaction with an angry customer, it can be easy to lose your cool. Winning brands and their employees know that keeping calm while focusing on the bigger picture is the only way to make it out of a customer confrontation with the relationship still intact. So how do you stay collected and focused on what matters? Let’s take a closer look.

7 steps to resolving issues and retaining customers

The winning method for dealing with angry customers starts with the right mindset. Approach every interaction from a calm, rational and empathetic headspace. The way a business treats a customer issue says a lot about what they value – so always have a game plan that involves these tactics:

  1. Listen actively. As the customer explains their frustrations, show you’re listening by making eye contact, nodding when appropriate and following along without interrupting. Listen carefully to understand the core issue. Write down all the key points, making sure to separate tangibles from intangibles, emotions from facts. 
  2. Validate that you “get it.” Show the customer that you clearly understand their issue and the cause of their anger. Never interrupt and, once the customer has finished speaking, ask open-ended questions to clarify the issue. Once you understand, confirm by repeating the issue back to them. For example, “If I understand correctly, you were told a technician would come on Monday, but no one arrived. Is that correct?”
  3. Offer a genuine apology. Express sincere apologies for the inconvenience the issue has caused. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame for the problem. Apologize anyway. Let them know you’re sorry the outcome has negatively impacted them.
  4. Fix the issue. Walk through all the options available to resolve the issue. Take the time to involve the customer in selecting the best resolution. Let them see that you’re working to make it right. 
  5. Sync up on next steps. Provide your name, contact information and reassurance that you’re taking personal responsibility to resolve the issue. Prevent any misunderstandings by sending a follow-up communication that clearly outlines next steps and expectations.
  6. Close the loop. Once the issue is resolved, follow up with the customer to confirm that they’re satisfied with the outcome. Let them know you’re available to help if they need anything in the future.
  7. Review the feedback with your team. Customer issues are an invaluable learning opportunity and key to continuous improvement. Successful businesses recognize that issue dialogue is a way to get better, not something to be ashamed of. Make a formal plan to share and review customer feedback with your team regularly to improve on weaknesses and prevent the same issues from happening repeatedly.

Customer service can be challenging, and sometimes we just need to take a deep breath. Not every issue is within our control or even justified. When extreme negative emotions come up and your goal is to salvage the relationship, the best thing you can do is put aside your feelings and work through theirs, one sentence at a time. 

American author Og Mandino said, “Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.”

In the world of customer service, triumph means approaching every customer frustration with open-mindedness and empathy and transforming it into a standout resolution they won’t forget.

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