How To Handle Angry Clients

Use these ideas to calm clients down and find viable solutions to the issues that have upset them.

Match Their Intensity:
Flip the script for a moment. You’re the customer. You’ve called with a complaint that has you burning mad. You explain why you’re steaming. And then…the other person responds sounding droll and lethargic. That would probably intensify your anger, wouldn’t it? Well, the same goes for your clients. So when they contact you with a complaint, match their energy level. No, that doesn’t mean yell and go crazy. It means convey a sense of immediacy, demonstrating through tone and language that you take their complaint seriously. “It shows that you care and want to help,” says David Blaise, president of Blaise, Drake & Co., an industry consultancy.

Get Them on the Phone:
If a client has emailed you about their issue, quickly give them a call in return. Email allows for the intrusion of extra ambiguity and misinterpretation – especially when people are upset. It will be more efficient, minimize the potential for confusion and show a more attentive touch if you talk out the problem on the phone. If you get voicemail, leave a considerate message that indicates you are eager to help and would like to discuss it further. Then, send the client an email expressing similar sentiments and saying that you just left a voicemail and would like to talk.

Let Them Have Their Say:
Interrupting an angry person will only make them angrier. Allow people to get things off their chest before you speak.

Saying sorry shows that you don’t wish to be adversarial. It suggests that you’re on the complainant’s side. Still, watch your phrasing here. You can apologize without necessarily accepting blame, as the problem might not be your fault. Say something like, “I’m very sorry to hear that there is an issue.”

Fully Understand the Problem:
Apologies done, you must tell clients that you will do whatever you can to help. Then, ask them to explain – or expand on – the exact nature of the issue. Be thorough in your questions to ensure you get the whole picture. If your questions are piling up and the client seems agitated by that, consider saying, “I apologize for asking so many questions. I just want to ensure I understand everything correctly so I can best help you.” When you’re done questioning, state your understanding of the problem back to the client and ask them to affirm its accuracy.

Collaborate on a Solution:
Propose potential remedies and talk with upset clients to see which option they’d most prefer. If the problem is complicated and there are no immediate solutions you can offer, assure the customer that rectifying the issue is your top priority and that you’re getting right to work on it. Give them a specific time when you’ll contact them with an update. Then, call them back before the stated time. “It shows you’re on top of things,” Blaise says. Once you’ve agreed on a solution, bring it to fruition.