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How to Turn an Angry Customer Into a Loyal One

It’s one of those unfortunate, inevitable facts of life: every company and every employee will at some point have to deal with an angry customer.

Whether their anger is warranted because of a bad situation, or whether the customer is just plain difficult, doesn’t matter. These days, companies must respond to and deal with angry customers. If they don’t, they risk those customers becoming brand detractors, using social media to spread the word, starting boycotts or writing negative reviews.

Every employee should be trained how to deal with angry customers. Employees need to know that even if they are being insulted to their faces, they still need to make a genuine effort to regain that customer’s goodwill. Here are some steps that may help turn an angry customer into a loyal one (or at least, not a detractor):

1. Acknowledge the Anger. Anger trumps logic. Sometimes, presenting a customer with the facts isn’t enough. Anger is a powerful emotion that stems from the fact the customer felt something very negative. It’s up to you to find out what the root cause of their anger is, and it may have little to do with the alleged incident or accusation. Is the customer really angry because they were overcharged, or did they feel like their complaint was ignored? Or were they shuffled around to three different people—or have to deal with a complicated voice mail system in order to register their complaint? The initial “issue” often isn’t the real issue, it’s how the company responds to the initial issue that can escalate a customer’s emotions into anger. Don’t try to rationalize what happened; instead, just acknowledge that they have a right to be angry.

2) Diffuse the Anger. The next step in dealing with an angry customer is to diffuse their anger. This is easier said than done. Sometimes, people need time to vent. That’s fine. Be patient while they do so. The key to making this happen is to listen to emotion without getting emotional. Don’t start flinging angry comments back. Be patient, speak softly and in a steady tone, and state back to the customer what you believe their problems and concerns are.

3) Own the problem. It doesn’t matter if you created the problem or not. An angry customer doesn’t want to hear it wasn’t your fault or that you’re just the messenger and there’s nothing you can do about it. Employees should be trained that an angry customer is a top priority and should be taken care of. Even if they truly don’t have the power to fix the issue, they should take charge by taking the issue to the managers that do have the power. However, that’s no excuse for handing the customer and their problem over and forgetting about it. Owning the problem means making sure the issue is being taken care of, no matter who else is handling it.

4) Resolve the Issue. Once the issue is resolved, inform the customer that this specific problem is resolved and is not expected to reoccur. Demonstrate your confidence by reiterating the customer’s original concerns and actions that you took to correct the issue. If more than one customer gets angry about an issue, there may be some long-term changes within your organization that need to take place. If you identify a problem with another employee, or with some policies in the workplace, then take your concerns to your manager with the complaints and some suggestions for necessary changes.

5) Follow Up After a few days and then again after a few weeks, follow up with the customer to inquire whether the corrective action was effective. A phone call or personalized e-mail demonstrates compassion and attentiveness, and sends a powerful message that your company cares about their individual customers. This type of follow-up may be enough to turn a now-neutral customer into a loyal customer, and may even earn you a few new customers!

Do you have any additional tips for handling angry customers? What steps do you think are the most challenging or difficult for employees to learn? Can you share examples of how you have turned an angry customer into a loyal customer?

Views: 900

Tags: LoyaltyTrac, MediaTrac, angry, angry customer, customer, loyalty, programs, retention, service


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Comment by Patty VanDyke on September 26, 2012 at 12:17pm

Nice article ... I will be sharing this in one of my training sessions at our dealerships (with credit given to Mike Gorun, of course).  I'm a firm believer that angry/disgruntled customers can turn into some of your best customers when the situation is handled correctly!  Thanks for this article!

Patty Van Dyke

Romeo Chevrolet Buick GMC  (845) 338-4000

Carriage Traders  (518) 793-8589
Romeo KIA (845) 475-3077


Comment by Michal Lusk on September 25, 2012 at 6:37pm

Excellent article! Yes, difficult customers who really want to spread unhappiness do exist, but most people just want to be heard, acknowledged, and feel that someone cares enough to work on the problem. I love your point that every employee needs to be trained to handle angry customers and take ownership of the problem. Once a customer feels that "you" care and will stick with them to the end, enough of their negative emotion usually dissipates so that they can begin to work with you to solve the issue.

Comment by Jeffery Sterns on September 25, 2012 at 3:27pm


this is interesting to me that you wrote this. Two reasons. First is that I cannot believe how much defensiveness and excuses (lack of ownership, responsibility) only inflames the client (or any offended party in life) more. Also the client needs to feel "gotten". The way to do this is to recreate what they've said in your own words ask if you would be more upset then them if the situation were reversed. This usually vents them down to not feel that they have to repeat the story or add "and another thing..."


The second reason that my antenna went up when I saw your article's title is my experience as Director Of Operations of a Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lotus store. We did a ton of used Ferrari, Lambo, Aston, etc.  We experienced tremendous growth and had #1 CSI in N America (tied with the Houston store). I can honestly say that the problems were the reason for the loyalty! I have told these war stories many times and the moral was always that the problem turned out to be the blessing! Selling these cars was more about disappointment management and psychology than anything else. New cars up to the mid $300s with oil leaks, over-spray on headlights,  engine lights, paint work from the factory and since we were not located in an area that people drove these cars, lots and lots of enclosed trucking. Once I called a truck who was late to the obviously inpatient new owner (4 days late) and got every story from bad wheel bearings to broken lift-gate. Only to call the pick up point to find it was never yet picked up!!

Now these clients could afford to take out a full page ad in the NY Times if they got riled enough! Plus they all had our cell numbers and didn't hesitate to call for a status at midnight or Sunday. Or have a congressman (really) call to see where their missing lug nut cover was that was 3 months behind the car!

In the end though, we had some incredible relationships and loyalty. And I honestly think it was in the nostalgia of this new car with a reworked rear quarter that their estate's detailer was so happy to point out to his boss that we all laughed about years later (client included) due to the care and follow up. I remember teaching the steps to a new guy on the team. Slightly different. I got to delivery and then the "next day call" with whatever is wrong, that his buddies at the club laughed at him about or the hemmorage in his driveway, and how we handle it, what we say but the trick was in the end that we called him more often than he called us and eventually before he called us. And once that occurred a relationship began that was based on what we did when it was hitting the fan that could never be as good if we were never tested.

Well written great article.

Jeff Sterns

VP of Sales & Business Development


Twitter: @JeffCarChat24

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