7 Smart Ways to Manage An Irate Customer: Handling Complaints

An irate customer comes to you with complaints and is more often than not, difficult to deal with. However, Customer complaints are opportunities for businesses to be better. Of course, almost everyone knows this. And I am happy to say that our participants in Customer Complaint Handling would all agree.

It is easy to think optimistically about it. But when faced with an irate customers in real-life situations, do we really think of them as  welcome opportunities or do we take them negatively?

Handling irate customers is critical for your because as one customer crosses his arms and starts showing signs of frustrations, you might ne losing the chance of making business with him.

The Story of An Irate Customer

Let me share with you this short story of an irate customer and how we dealt with the complaint.

In the small café that my business partners and I manage, we already have a number of loyal guests who regularly dine in with us.  The café is located in a town where everybody seems to know everyone. 

One day, one of our waiters got a real good scolding from a fuming irate customer.  I had to walk up to the table to know what was happening. 

Apparently, the guest ordered some fish fillet and fries and he got angry because he wanted rice with his fish.  Upon seeing me, he yelled a lot louder and insisted that he’s a regular and said he knew that our store has always served the dish with rice.

I knew we have never served the dish with rice. Still, I sincerely apologized to him and told him that I understood.  I politely asked him to show me in the menu what he ordered. Obediently he picked up the menu. He pointed at it, and read aloud, “fish fillet and…..fries”! He then stopped! Took his glass of water, drank from it and looked at me.  This irate customer then waved his hand as if to tell me that he’s done talking, he lifted his fork and knife and was about to eat, but I gently tapped his arm and said, “Sir, it seems that your food is already cold, If you can wait for a few minutes, we can cook and serve you with fish fillet and this time with rice!”

Irate Customer Turned Satisfied Customer

He then smiled and when he finished, he left a P500 tip for our crew. Up to this time, he still comes to the café.  He brings his family, friends and colleagues. He isn’t our regular customer anymore, he is now our VSG! Our Very Special Guest! He is a very satisfied guest.

Did we handle it well?

Did we handle it well? Maybe. But there’s another lesson to it.  Right after that incident, I noticed that my staff who waited on that particular customer, was really affected.  All throughout that day, he was talking about how  embarrassed he was when the guest berated him. He was so hurt that his story went on for a week.  And worst, every time he sees that particular guest walking in, he avoids him, and murmurs some negative words and walks away.

Dealing with Irate Customers

And so, I’ve realized that our management has to re-orient our team on how to handle irate customers.  Here are seven smart ways that we taught our team on how  to deal with irate customers.

#1 -Don’t take it personally. 

This should be first on our list as it would really affect the way we respond and act towards angry customers. I remember one video where it recounted the talk between a call center agent and a client. The client was complaining about the services of the company but the agent could not really answer the questions of the man on the other line. In frustration, the client suddenly cursed but not directly at the agent. However, the agent immediately answered with the same bad words. A long heated argument followed as to who cursed first and no one would give in.

Such an incident should remind us how to handle clients who in their frustrations, could bring them to swear or say really nasty words. And more importantly, that is, not to take it personally. As they say, “Walang personalan, trabaho lang.” 

Remember the customer is mad at the situation not at you.  Remind yourself not to get offended. The customer may curse, say bad words and yell, but it is not about you.  Keep your cool. Devise a swear-stopper approach by replacing bad words with good ones. A word is just a word until we put meanings in it.

#2 -Give your customer the right to be angry.

Let your customer vent. No matter what the circumstances are, remember that the customer has the right or maybe even the privilege to be irate. They want to be heard. When the customer has gotten it all out, then you can look at the merit of the complaint. Calmly respond and see what you can do to help him. Just imagine your customer experiencing a technical malfunction during special events or conferences. The issue may be related to some unavoidable technical difficulties , but the emotional distress is related to the risk of memories. We need to deal with the problem, but we should also address the emotional issues that arose because of the situation.

#3 -Listen.

This may sound a cliché but let’s accept it, we cannot complete the list without it.  As your angry customer talks, listen and get the most important points. Listen carefully to how the anger is expressed so you would know where he is coming from. Go beyond words.  Listen to the emotions without getting emotional yourself. After which, you can ask a few more questions to clarify and to make sure you understood his predicament. This is in a way, putting the customer first and the problem, second.

#4 -Show your customer genuine empathy. 

It is more than sympathy.  At a grocery store, a customer suddenly got mad that the price of an item he got from the shelf was not the same with the price at the checkout counter. If you are the cashier, you should see the situation from the perspective of the customer. Place yourself in the shoes of the irate customer. How would you feel in the same situation? Understand and feel her emotions.  She will feel that you genuinely care about his situation and that you are ready to be of help. Furthermore, use the person’s name instead of saying sir or ma’am. Remember the power of name.  Stay calm.

#5 -Never forget to apologize. 

One day a customer service staff received a call from a client who demanded for the immediate return of her money. She was saying that she’d had it, she cannot take the company’s mistakes anymore. In your willingness to solve the situation and satisfy the customer, you may forget to apologize. It doesn’t really matter if a complaint is justified or not, apologies should always be given.  Somehow the customer was unhappy, and we should be sorry that he had to go through that experience in our store.

#6 -Offer a Solution.

Work with the customer to find a solution.  You may ask him what he thinks should be done to remedy the situation.  Analyze the problem and provide corrective measures. You should also re-assure your customer that you will continue to look for better ways to improve the system so that such will not happen again.

#7 -A minute of “me” time. 

Yes, “me” time. Your time! There are some customers who are just never going to be happy, This means giving yourself some time to re-compose yourself after dealing with the angry customer.  There are some customers who are just never going to be happy. Again, it is not about you.   Let the tension out.  The situation can also be stressful.  You have to check your composure as you have to go back to work and face the next customers. 

When faced with such situations, we can be demoralized especially if we think that the complaint is unjustified.  How do you deal with irate customers? The question of whether the phrase “the customer is always right” can always can come up.    We should create a culture of customer service in our companies, and with a little more patience, understanding and whole lot of love, we can a gather a big crowd of loyal customers.

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