Am I bothered? 10 techniques to turn around your angriest customers   by Dan Wall

Content Manager


Am I bothered? – 10 techniques to turn around your angriest customers


I started in the customer service business as a 13 year old delivering the heaviest newspapers known to (wo)man; those samples of mouthwash weren’t going to deliver themselves. Since then, I’ve had plenty of practise dealing with people, particularly angry people (once because, as part of my newspaper delivery, I forced a Pepperami through a vegetarian’s letter box). I’ve had various roles leading call centre teams and have taken part in training and coaching sessions, some good and some truly horrific. Along the way, I’ve developed a straightforward, but not necessarily easy approach to customer service. And let’s face it, no matter how much a company might strive for it – no one gets it right all the time. Sometimes, your customers get angry. Here are my tips to turn their experience around.

Your customer is upset. Now what? Top 10 tips.

1. Be ‘bothered’

Being bothered means to take the trouble to do something.

If you only get one thing, get this - be bothered. Because if you’re not bothered, nothing else will happen or anything you do will be done half-heartedly. This is the single most important thing when dealing with any customer issue or complaint. There are dozens of more empathetic terms meaning the same, but simply being bothered about the customer is step one. Be interested and invested enough to do something.

2. Us and not them

Having a ‘your problem is my problem attitude’ and really living by this will create a relationship defining solution. If it’s a complaint you’re dealing with get on the customer’s side as soon as possible.

If you are the front line and the first person the customer has spoken to, the sooner you get on the customers side the less likely you’ll hear the dreaded “Can I speak to your manager”. The main reason someone wants the manager is that they believe the manager will care more.

You won’t just resolve the complaint; you’ll nurture a relationship that in turn creates an affinity between the customer and your business.

3. Actively listen

There’s listening and then there’s actively listening. Anyone can be quiet while someone else speaks. Actively listening takes a bit more, but the rewards are worth it. Face to face, a nod of the head and the right body language will relax the most irate customer almost immediately. On the phone, your voice is your only tool. Understanding the tone of your voice, knowing where to question and where and how to interject will keep your customer’s stress or frustration levels on the decline.

Make notes on the points you’ve identified as their biggest pain points. What did the customer get particularly passionate about? Listen for clues; they may have identified their expectation as well. Capture it.

4. Acknowledge

You’ve listened, questioned and made a few notes. Now, this is your chance. Get it right and the call or interaction is plain sailing. Get it wrong and you’ll make the customer even more angry or frustrated than they were when they started. This first response doesn’t need to be long or complicated.

If they made reference to the cost of the call or the inconvenience, call them back. Did you know that pay as you go call charges can be as much as 55p per minute? i. So make an immediate positive impact, ring them back. Offering to foot the bill of the call and ringing them back immediately or at a better time will extinguish the flames of the angriest of customers.

If you feel like you can resolve their problem quickly then apologise whole heartedly to key points that you’ve noted down. Apologise they had to spend time out of their day to bring this to your attention. Adding this extra layer shows that you put yourself in their shoes. Acknowledge and always apologise.

5. Be the customer

‘The customer is always right’ is a famous phrase that is both 100% right and totally inaccurate at the same time. The customer is sometimes in the wrong or wrongly informed. However, the customer is totally right to feel however they want to feel. When a customer comes to you with a problem (particularly the angry ones), you’re a barrier they need to fight past for a resolution.

You can’t fight with yourself so the second you step across the line and are on the customer’s side; you remove the opponent for the fight. Be the customer and together you’ll resolve anything, even if the customer is initially wrong.

6. Avoid false trust

Have you ever been browsing and see the sales person in the corner of your eye, they’ve spotted you. He or she stalks you like a hungry wolf, contact is imminent. “Hi there, how are you today” – you’ve met your shopping soul mate, sent down from the heavens to serve you, giving you best deals for ‘today only’.

This is false trust. He or she wants to sell something. That’s what they’re there to do. The salesperson might be a genuine caring person, however, at that moment they’re in full sales mode, everything else is secondary.

Be genuine with no agenda other than to help with whatever is required of you.

7. Expectations

It’s all well and good listening, acknowledging and being bothered, the next step, setting an expectation is the link between a complaint and a resolution. Without setting an expectation, delivery of the resolution will either be inefficient at best or a nasty shock at worse.

“This is what I’m going to do…”

Give yourself enough time to resolve a query or complaint and be mindful that the longer it goes on, the harder you’ll need to work to maintain trust. Under promise and over deliver? Nope, just deliver what you’ve both agreed. Over deliver by all means but why under promise?

8. Own it

You’re in resolution mode; someone else may need to get involved, maybe that’s IT or another manager. Either way, the query is yours. If you want to create long lasting relationships, the person who took the query should see it through. Remember, you’ve made the promises and set the expectation.

(Caveat: if there’s someone better to sort a problem out then so be it).

9. Follow up

One of two things should happen here. Either, you’ve owned the query and are delivering an update on the resolution. Or, you’re making sure your customer is happy with the resolution or service they’ve received if you had to hand it over.

Remember, the relationship is at stake. You’re not just answering queries. Cement the relationship by following up.

10. Do something about it

The customer is satisfied and happy. Now what? Rinse and repeat? The answer is yes and no. If you have another customer with a problem then absolutely do the same thing again. But firstly, you’re now a ‘bothered customer’.

Doing nothing means you’ll be doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. And we all know what that’s the definition of…

Do something to make sure that you’re using this customer’s experience to improve the overall customer experience. Remember point 5 (Be the customer).



Sign up to our email newsletter


If you like this, you may like:

'But really, how are you?' - Emotional intelligence in customer service

Knowing me, knowing you