How to deal with irate customers 

Angry customer

The heavy breathing, agitated tone, and accusatory words are all signs that you have an irate customer on the other end of the line.  

In the world of eCommerce, you will have to deal with angry customers. They might be calling to complain about delayed orders, or they have an issue with the product they received. It is hard helping someone who is complaining, venting, or hurling insults at you. 

So, a customer has called in, and he is angry at the services you are offering, how do you deal with that situation?

To avoid bad reviews, or losing the customer, you need to learn the appropriate ways to deal with angry customers. 

We spoke with Priscilla Mwende, the Customer Experience Manager at Savannah Informatics. Savannah informatics is an organization that delivers software solutions for healthcare service providers and consumers. Priscilla provided us with insights on how she trains her team to deal with irate customers.

 What to do when handling angry customers 

How you handle an angry customer can either lead to a customer satisfied with the resolution or one who vows to never buy from you again. Priscilla mentioned that to deal with irate customers, you need two sets of skills: soft and hard skills. Here is how to use these skills when dealing with challenging customers: 

  1. Soft Skills  

Soft skills also referred to as people skills, are personal attributes and character traits that relate to how you interact with other people. Let’s test your soft skills. Are you hardly provoked? Do people find you friendly and approachable? Are you a team player? Are you able to take criticism? If you answered yes to the 5 questions, it shows that you have a good share of soft skills.  Here are some soft skills you can use to handle irate customers:  

  • Calmness and Active listening. 

It’s a normal human reaction to attack when provoked, but in this situation it will only escalate hostilities. When you are handling a challenging customer, limit your words and listen more to the customer’s frustration. This will help them feel that they have your full attention. Practice active listening and avoid interrupting the customer.  

  • Apologize 

Priscilla stated that one should apologize even when the customer is wrong. Let’s say you have dispatched a product from the warehouse and the quality was fine. However, along the way, the product gets damaged. You receive a call from the customer complaining about the product. In such a situation, even though you are not responsible for the damage, you should apologize to the customer for the inconvenience caused to them.  An apology shows the customer that you understand their frustration. It also shows that you own up to the process and you are willing to fix the issue.  

  • Emotional intelligence 

An emotionally intelligent person is one who can manage their emotions against the surroundings of others. If you are dealing with a person hurling insults, you must not let it get to you. In Priscilla’s words, “understand that the customer is offended by the process/system breakdown and not you ”.  Thus, do not take it personally, separate yourself from the issue and you could solve it in a more rational way. As the wise say, no one is immune to kindness. 

  • Good communication skills 

Maintain healthy conversations. Exercise the 6 Cs of communication: Clear, credible, correct, courteous, concise, and complete communication.  Speak positively even when delivering negative information to the customer. For example, when explaining to them that their product shipment will be delayed, explain to them the cause of the delay, and even provide the exact date the product will get to them. Providing a clear and honest situation will help the customer to understand the situation 

  1. Hard Skills  

Hard skills are the abilities and expertise learned through practice that enable you to do your job. For example, as a business owner, you are always processing orders, interacting with customers, bookkeeping, etc. If you can proficiently do any of these tasks, those are hard skills. Here are some hard skills required to deal with irate customers: 

  • Problem solving 

After listening to the customer’s frustrations about your product and service, you must provide a suitable and helpful solution, or it will just piss him/her off more. “This is more than sympathy; it’s being empathetic to the client. A client not only needs you to feel for them but also to put yourself in their shoes and provide a solution that will resolve their state of frustration”, Priscilla explained.  You just need to listen, evaluate the problem, and offer a valuable solution to them  

  • Timeliness 

When a customer calls about an issue, evaluate it, and provide a timeline within which you can provide a solution or feedback. When you call within that time frame promised, even when the issue is not yet resolved just to update them on the progress, you build trust, and it shows that you keep your word. To de-escalate an angry customer, they need to believe that you are on their side.  

What should you not do when handling angry customers? 

An angry customer is like a ticking bomb, you must be careful in how you handle them, or else the situation might get worse. Here is what you should avoid doing/saying when dealing with irate customers: 

Do not be defensive 

A psychological fact states that people become defensive when trying to lie or hiding the truth. You do not want your customers to perceive you as dishonest. Priscilla stated that you should avoid blame games and refrain from using words like, “this is your problem”. It is not professional, and this will only make the customer angrier. 

Do not promise a timeline you cannot deliver 

Have you called customer care and they put you on hold or told you to wait and they would get back to you, but they end up wasting your time? It’s irritating. The customer is angry, but when you tell them “Let me look into it and give you feedback in 10 minutes” you must make sure to call them in that time frame.  If the issue will not be resolved within the timeframe you provided, you can call them and explain the situation. 

More tips on handling irate customers 

  • A friendly Introductory script 

Scripts are useful when dealing with customers as they prevent you from saying something that will wound you in the future. At Savannah Informatics call center, the agents start a conversation with the following statement, “thank you for calling the happiness center, how may I help you?”. This sets the tone, and the word ‘happiness’ said in a friendly tone, may help in calming down an angry customer from releasing his/her concerns in a derogatory manner. 

  • Ask the customer how they would like to be addressed 

Never presume to use a caller’s first or surname. You can ask them, “how may I address you?”. Some people like their credentials acknowledged. “You can address the caller by his/her first name, but some can get upset when you do not add the Dr. or Prof. at the beginning of their names, this ensures they are given the opportunity to dictate how they are addressed.” Said Priscilla. 

  • Ending scripts 

After providing a solution to the customer, at this stage, the conversation is not heated up as before. You can take this time to inquire about customer satisfaction and ask if they require further assistance. The call center agents at Savannah informatics are taught to end with a line like, “Is there anything else I can assist you with?” or “we wish you a quick recovery”. 

In conclusion 

Dealing with an irate customer is challenging, but this is someone who has an issue with your products or service. Assisting them can help change their perception and even build loyalty. You must remain calm, listen attentively, be empathetic, provide a timeline and avoid taking it personally. 

You may not be trained to deal with challenging customers, and this is how we can help you. We are masters at providing high-quality customer experience services to business’ customers. So, if you require any assistance, you can email us at or call us at +254 743 750 000. 

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