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5 steps for making an angry customer your biggest fan

4 min read
Deborah Sweeney

Good customer service is one of the cornerstones for a successful business. In fact, it’s quickly becoming the main factor that distinguishes one company from another. Business consulting firm Walker predicts in their Customers 2020 report that, by 2020, customer service will be the key differentiator for brands. Knowing how to handle angry customers, and turn them into supporters, is thus instrumental to a business’s long-term success. Handling a disgruntled customer, however, is easier said than done. So how do you turn angry customers into huge fans of the brand?

Step No. 1: Don’t let the anger get to you

No matter what, never, ever lose your cool. You lose that customer the minute you escalate because they are already looking for an outlet for their frustration. Start yelling back and nothing will get solved. Now, I know there are some people who just don’t let up — if you’re talking to one, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and take a moment. Trust me, though, if you keep your cool, it’ll be hard for them to stay angry.

Step No. 2: Anticipate the solution

Why is this person calling? What are they so angry about? If you can answer those questions, you’re in a great position to de-escalate and solve the problem. This can be a bit difficult when you first start out, but as time wears on you’ll begin to see patterns. Someone who got the wrong product probably wants the right one, and quickly, rather than a refund. A customer experiencing issues with a product or service, on the other hand, will likely at first just want the problem fixed, but will quickly demand a refund if they feel they aren’t being helped. Figuring out the most plausible solution will then help with the next step.

Step No. 3: Empathize and lead

OK – so your customer is upset, or angry. They don’t want to spend their time on the phone or in your office explaining themselves. Empathize with their frustration, and do everything you can to allay it. The trick is to be proactive, without being pushy. Let them air their grievances, then offer the course of action that best solves their problem. You don’t want them to ever ask any variation of, “What are you going to do to solve this problem?” That assumes you wouldn’t solve the problem without the burden that question lay on your shoulders. Instead, be the one to say, “Let me solve this problem.”

Step No. 4: Follow-up

This step is one of the most vital, and most-often skipped, parts of the customer service process. You absolutely, positively must follow-up. According to the Accenture Consumer Pulse Survey, one of the biggest sources of consumer frustration is contacting a company multiple times to solve an issue. The onus is on you, then, to make sure their problem has been solved to their satisfaction. Even if they left happy, give them a call, send them an e-mail, or reach out through social media to make sure they still are.

Step No. 5: Fix the root of the problem

Finally, make sure to fix the root of the problem so it doesn’t keep creeping up. Sometimes there is no root — people make mistakes — but simple issues like shipping errors or brief disruptions to service can be symptoms of wider problems. So when an angry customer brings an issue to your attention, don’t just stick a Band-Aid over it. By tackling the root, you’ll make sure future customers are happy, and you’ll be able to prove to that angry customer that you actually solved the problem!