Microlearning, Technology and Product

Training tips: How to deal with an angry customer

Posted on: March 25, 2024Updated on: April 24, 2024By: Michelle Wilton

As economic uncertainty and other disruptions hit frontline industries, the increase in difficult conversations and volatile workplace incidents continues to grow. Our own recent research found that 40% of retail and grocery associates feel scared to go to work, and 64% of managers feel that addressing volatile issues like theft and violence is still top-of-mind

One thing that kept coming up as we delved deeper into this topic is the need for effective training material that enables staff to know exactly what to do when an interaction with a frustrated customer starts to escalate. In fact, 21% of grocery and retail associates don’t feel prepared to handle customer situations involving theft—and the same percentage of associates haven’t been given the right tools and training to empathetically manage tense customer interactions. 

To help organizations address that, we’re going into the Content Marketplace, our  library of off-the-shelf training content designed to quickly get frontline workers up to speed on the things they need to know.

Training Tips 1: How to Deal with an Angry Customer Content Marketplace

Here’s an excerpt from our module, Dealing with Customers

How to deal with an angry customer

The following tips will help guide staff through the process of dealing with an angry customer’s concerns in an efficient way, and avoiding escalation, through active listening, remaining calm, paying attention, keeping a professional tone and prioritizing the resolution process. 

Be professional and patient—and practice active listening—with angry customers

Listening patiently can help the situation, as long as the unhappy customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint. 

After the customer expresses their frustrations, they want to know that you understand their perspective and how they’re feeling. Showing the customer respect and understanding helps them see that you really are trying to help them. This can lead to a faster resolution to their problem and a calmer interaction in general.

Show empathy—but remain impartial

Regardless of whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple statement is often all that is needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.” Sometimes upset customers just want to have someone apologize to them for the bad service. Hopefully the customer will cool down a bit once you apologize on behalf of the company. 

Do not offer your opinions or introduce your own biases into the conversation. Always take a neutral position on issues, but empathize with your customer’s concerns. By taking a neutral position, you can resolve problems in an efficient manner. 

Offer a solution and clarify your resolution

Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, offer a solution. Ask them what they feel should be done or suggest your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for. A solution may result in providing some degree of satisfaction. 

Make sure your customer understands what has been done at the end of the interaction. Even if the issue is not totally resolved, clarify the resolution that was reached. If the complaint is covered by store policies, be respectful in pointing out what the store policies are. Try to manage the issue without the involvement of a manager or supervisor. However, if the customer requests to speak to a manager or supervisor directly, follow their wishes. 

Do not take it personally

The customer is not upset with you; they are upset with something your company did or didn’t do. Your job is to take the negative energy, channel it properly, and convert it to something positive. Never use sarcasm since it will only fuel the customer’s anger and worsen the situation. Remain calm and maintain control of your emotions. If a customer starts yelling or being rude, do not respond in a similar manner since it will probably escalate the situation.

Our Content Marketplace is home to over 800 topics, expertly optimized for microlearning and reinforcement. Stay tuned for more training tips straight from the Marketplace! 

Michelle Wilton

Michelle Wilton is an accomplished learning professional with experience in instructional design, consulting and learning technologies.

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