How to deal with angry customers: 5 conflict resolution tips to try

How to deal with angry customers: 5 conflict resolution tips to try

Kim Mercado
By Kim Mercado
Oct 13, 2023
7 min read

What should you do if a customer yells or uses foul language? As a business owner, it happens. Learning how to deal with angry customers is an essential part of growing your business.

Skill, tact and experience can help you determine whether your customer has been wronged, or if they’re just a rude bully. And your strategy for improving the customer experience for each may be different.

Jump ahead to learn:

How should a business deal with angry customers?

To help prevent altercations, clearly state policies for anticipated problems. For example, make it clear if you don’t accept cash or walk-in customers.

If a disagreement occurs, be polite, professional, and assertive for your safety and that of your employees. Rude or unruly customers are more likely to move on to another target if you remain calm and assertive.

How can I tell the difference between an unhappy customer and a rude customer?

One international research study showed that the best response to an angry customer was polite, professional and firm.

In the case of an unhappy customer, use your business policies and good sense to find the root of their anger and unhappiness. The upset customer is frustrated for a reason. They can be very angry, but solutions can also calm them.

An unhappy customer can be unhappy because of a misunderstanding about your service, product or payment. They can be unhappy because they’re having a bad day, which has nothing to do with you.

Unhappy customers are great business opportunities. Business studies show that they can become happy and loyal customers once their concerns are met politely and professionally. You can leverage the negative situation to build long-lasting customer loyalty.

One hallmark of a rude customer is that nothing calms them: Neither a solution nor an agreement.

Sometimes the more you agree with a rude customer, the angrier they’ll become. If you say “I’m sorry,” they may add some additional verbal abuse.

If you apologize to an angry customer if you don’t mean it, and you don’t offer a solution, it isn’t effective. Instead, acknowledge the customer’s concerns. Forbes offers effective communication alternatives to repeating “I’m sorry” with no resolution.

For example, if the customer feels that you didn’t perform a service well, say, “I hear you. We can handle that.” Or, if it isn’t something you understand and can handle right away, try saying, “I hear you. Let me see if I can understand exactly what is the matter.”

“I hear you” could be three of the most powerful words in customer communication, especially with challenging customers.

october 2019 13 1

4 tips on how to deal with angry customers

It’s tough to deal with an angry client. Try these tactics to diffuse tense situations:

1. Stay calm

Don’t escalate your own emotions when faced with anger or verbal abuse. Of course, this is easier said than done. Practice ahead of time, even if it’s just in your head.

If you feel your temper rising, try some anger management exercises. For example, take a deep breath and slow your breathing.

2. Practice active listening

Make a conscientious effort to hear someone and engage with what they’re saying. Imagine yourself in their position.

Say, “I hear you” and repeat the problem to the customer as they described it. To get the most out of active listening.

  • Face the speaker. Give the customer the courtesy of your attention.
  • Maintain eye contact. Not a stare-down, but eye contact is an important part of effective communication.
  • Don’t interrupt. Let the customer say their piece about why they’re unhappy. Sometimes when they’ve vented their frustration, it gives them a chance to cool down. Interrupting or talking over them is likely to aggravate them more.
  • Ask questions to understand. Wait until the customer has paused and ask for clarification.

Active listening skills can help you get to the root of a customer’s complaint.

3. Respond professionally

Manage your tone of voice. When someone is agitated or angry, you may want to match their tone and energy. Instead, try to speak calmly and get the customer to match your tone.

Answer their concerns factually and professionally. If an apology is in order, make it a simple and genuine one. Offer a solution politely and quickly.

  • An unhappy customer will calm down and accept the solution.
  • A rude, abusive customer will continue to raise objections or even ignore all you’ve said.

If the customer starts using profanity or threatens you, it’s okay to tell them you won’t tolerate being spoken to that way. Tell them that you’re there to help, but if they continue the abuse, you will call security or the police.

Resist the urge to retaliate. No matter how deserved it might be or how satisfying it could feel, you want to put out the fire, not fan the flames.

4. Know when to walk away

This is your business. You don’t have to let anybody walk all over you. If you’ve stayed calm, practiced active listening and responded professionally and you’re still not close to a resolution, it’s time to end the conversation.

Politely but firmly say you have disagreeing viewpoints and you can no longer go further with the conversation. Advise them of your policies and suggest they take complaints to an industry regulatory board or authority.

If you’re on the phone, hang up. In person, ask the customer to leave the premises. You have a right to refuse service to rude customers.

How NEXT can help protect you and your business from angry customers

While business insurance can’t magically make angry customers happy, it can protect you from costly business disagreements or accidents.

NEXT helps small business owners thrive by making it easy to get business insurance online. You can get a quote, review options and purchase coverage in less than 10 minutes.

Your certificate of insurance is available immediately, and if you have any questions, our team of U.S.-based, licensed advisors are standing by to help.

Start a free instant quote with NEXT.

Kim Mercado
About the author
Kim Mercado is a content editor at NEXT's blog, where she writes and edits posts for small business owners. She enjoys helping entrepreneurs solve their business challenges and learn about insurance. Kim has contributed to Salesforce, Samsara and Google.

You can find Kim trying new recipes and cheering the 49ers.

banner get business insurance in 10
What we cover
Chat with Us

Mon – Fri | 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT

© 2024 Next Insurance, Inc. 975 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94304, United States
Better Business Bureau
Issuance of coverage is subject to underwriting. Not available in all states. Please see the policy for full terms, conditions and exclusions. Coverage examples are for illustrative purposes only. Your policy documents govern, terms and exclusions apply. Coverage is dependent on actual facts and circumstances giving rise to a claim. Next Insurance, Inc. and/or its affiliates is an insurance agency licensed to sell certain insurance products and may receive compensation from insurance companies for such sales. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the issuing insurance company. Refer to Legal Notices section for additional information.

Any starting prices or premiums represented before an actual customer quote are not guaranteed and are representations of existing premiums of active policies as of December 6, 2023. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten, not all applicants may qualify. Individual rates and savings vary and are subject to change. Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only.