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Calming angry customers. Part 1

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Recently, I had to deal with a customer service representative who was absolutely unable to help me resolve an issue. The more I explained, the less patient she became, and and my level of tolerance for her rudeness was declining fast. She made no attempts to understand my issue or try to resolve it. It took three more phone calls before I found someone else who could assist.{{more}} Since then, I came across this article by George Bancroft and wanted to share it, as it echoes what all service representatives need to keep in mind. Here is Part 1. Part 2 will follow next week.

When the customer who has a problem becomes angry, it becomes impossible for you to resolve the situation. In this case, the first thing to do is to calm the angry customer. This article gives you some concepts and techniques that can be used to do this effectively.

The Basic Human Needs

Each of us has psychological needs. These needs are so basic that we must maintain a minimum level of each to feel life is worth living.

These basic human needs are:

  • A recognition of self-worth and some feeling of importance.
  • A sense of love and belonging
  • A feeling of self-respect and dignity
  • A feeling of some personal power and self-esteem
  • A feeling of financial stability

The people in the accounts receivable department face these psychological needs everyday as they interact with their customers. If you understand that each person you talk to must have their basic needs enhanced and strengthened, you will do your jobs better.

These needs are the soil in which you plant your seeds. Study them closely so that you can use them wherever and whenever possible.

Listen To Their Story

When you answer the phone, or meet a customer in person, and the person is openly angry or hostile, calm yourself and listen intently to his or her story. Listen to what he or she has to say from beginning to end, without saying anything. Show that you are listening and that you understand what your customer is saying by a simple “yes” or “no” where appropriate.

If you have questions, or if you don’t understand something that is being said, take notes so that you can go back to the point and get it answered.

Try to see the customer’s point of view, and try to see if you can agree with him or her. If you can agree, tell the person that you agree. If you can’t agree, say that you understand the problem and will try to resolve it.

After the customer has told you his or her story, and you have clarified any unclear points, explain what you can do to solve the problem. If you can’t agree with what the customer perceives as the problem, ask what he or she wants you to do. It is at this point that you know where you can start your negotiation.

Turn Off Anger

In this type of situation, you must be able to set your ego aside and act as objectively as possible. It is difficult to act objectively when someone is venting his or her anger at you personally, but if it appears to be a legitimate complaint, try to understand the other person’s state of mind and act calmly and quietly. Listen for the content of what is being said, not the method of delivery.

If you show patience and a genuine concern for the customer’s situation, you will find that the person will start to quiet, and finally you will be able to approach the problem rationally.

Find the Real Reason for the Anger

Sometimes you will get a person who is so worked up that you have a hard time figuring out what the problem really is. If this is so, once the person is quiet, you can start asking questions that will reveal the real reason for the anger.

Your questions should use the standard probing system, which attempts to establish the who, what, where, when, and why of the problem.

Part 2 of this article will be continued next week.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE
SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to [email protected] Visit online at