Dealing with Angry Customers


It happens on a regular basis! Angry customers express their frustration by aiming their complaints at staff members.

If this happens to you, then don’t despair. You are not the first to be concerned by raised voices and maybe even a threat of violent behaviour. Stay calm and devise a plan to face such a situation.

How do I deal with angry customers?

If you wish to be successful in any business, then you have to learn how to handle angry and disgruntled customers who may not have received the level of service that they expected from the company that you are representing.

Before you devise your plan to cope with these difficult situations, it is important to try and understand the view point from both sides. You are that initial point of contact with the angry customer and they are actually expressing their concerns about the company and not about you as an individual. Try not to take it personally.

You should also remember that the customer is always right. Your aim should always be customer satisfaction, whatever the situation. How you achieve this is up to you based on your individual strengths and inter-personal skills, however, listed below are a few guidelines to help you develop your own personal strategy for dealing with angry customers:

shout-phone-185Never argue back: Remember that the simple mathematical rule of ‘two negatives make a positive ‘ does not work in this case. You have to face a confrontational situation by calming the irate customer with your positive and professional behaviour. You must resolve to stay calm and aim to satisfy the customer even in the most difficult situations. It is only by empathising with their view point and suggesting a possible solution that you will resolve the situation and send the customer away happy.

Use your ears more than your mouth: Remember that you have two ears and only one mouth – so make sure you listen more than you speak. If you try to respond forcefully when your customer is angry , then the situation will certainly get out of control and you are unlikely to succeed in resolving the situation. More importantly, by listening carefully, you will be able to understand why the customer is complaining, so that satisfactory steps can be taken.

Ten tips to improve listening skills on the telephone

red book held by white hands

Download our training cheat sheet – Handling difficult customers

Show that you care: Once the anger subsides, there will be a short interval when the customer pauses for breath and that is when you have an opportunity to express your empathy and understanding. You have to show that you care and that you will do everything within your power to try and resolve the situation. This exhibition of your concern will win the customer over and half your battle will be won. There will be a significant change in their behaviour and you will be able to turn the situation around.

Beating Phone Rage with Care

wait-185Be patient: It never pays to be impatient, in any business. Although it is not easy to control one’s emotions when a customer is being unreasonable in their behaviour, you will have to remain professional, friendly and cooperative in order to succeed. Having patience with your customers and with yourself will go a long way in winning over hostile customers.

Customers Happy to Hold

Be positive in your approach: Even in the worst of circumstances, try to overcome all negative tendencies and adopt a positive approach and mindset. This will also help you to manage your stress effectively so you are not weighed down by the hostile attitude of the customer. You should be gentle with yourself and try and express your point of view assertively without in any way offending your customer’s feelings.

Articles about Positive words

Control your anger: Getting angry is a common trait of human nature but you should learn to control your anger, relax and calm yourself so that you can express your anger in a subtle way without showing any emotions towards your customer.

Destress yourself from time to time

De-stress yourself from time to time: By the time you succeed in winning over the customer, you will naturally be exhausted and stressed. It is important for your own health as well as customer relations that you learn how to de-stress yourself. There is nothing like a hot cup of coffee to rejuvenate your sagging nerves. Or take some time off to listen to some music or chat with your friends in the cafeteria. Apart from music, meditation and breathing exercises may be effective. However, these are only suggestions; there is no fixed recipe for dealing with stressful emotions – you have to find what works for you.

How to help call centre agents deal with stress

The above guidelines are very useful in every situation in life and you can successfully tackle hostile circumstances by following them.

It is very important to understand the psychology of the customer who is expressing his dissatisfaction with the company’s products or services. It is natural for a customer to show their anger and express frustration and disappointment. The secret of success is to remain calm. Show respect and empathy to the customer by listening patiently and then put forward your point of view. Always let the customer know what you can do for them rather than what you can’t do. Offer a possible solution and ask if the customer is happy with that solution. You will seldom find that the customer says no! If you follow the above tips, you are on your way to succeeding in your career.

Written by Shushmul.

Published On: 2nd Dec 2005 - Last modified: 29th Nov 2016

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  1. You provided the relevant information, which can help a lot to the employees among the businesses. Thanks for that, fortunately I will apply those skills I have read about, hopefully they gonna work for me.

    Jim Tshabalala 23 Jul at 11:45 am
  2. although it’s really hard to deal with irate customers,reading these article, in a way,had made me realize of one important thing-no matter how mad customers are,they are not actually really mad at you. Sometimes just listening to them vent out may actually lead to solving the root cause of their frustations.

    Richard Hornilla 26 Jul at 9:46 am
  3. That helps alot thanks for that hope it works going for me first interview today

    Anonymous 8 Oct at 10:11 am
  4. Great advice, I always remember that an angry customer isn’t angry at me personally, and that makes it much easier to deal with. We’re all human though, some workers find it upsetting, so there needs to be proper support and training in the workplace to help us cope.

    Gavin 12 Oct at 5:29 pm
  5. Life is what YOU make it. You can’t please everyone in this life. Some customers will work with you, some against you. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONAL? Yes, you should but learn from it though. If a customer says, “can I talk to someone else who can help me?” That is a direct insult that you do not know what you, the CSR, are doing??? Get the hint and update your CSR=customer service training and apply what you learn. Seriously, watch how you approach (one) mag client!!! That client can damage your business or build your business. Customers Make Your Business Grow! Keep the worth keeping, damp the one not worth your time and YOU SHOULD KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

    Nata Masika-finley 18 Oct at 5:22 am
  6. thanks for such great advice it will definitely help me in my first interview. thanks

    rajesh rajurkar 11 Feb at 4:41 am
  7. Speaking as a customer and not a CSR, I agree that CSRs should not take angry customers personally. But I will say that this article ignores why some customers get angry in the first place: incomplete knowledge on the part of the CSR (which I blame on training, not the CSR). When I call a call center with questions, I’m always very nice, but I get easily frustrated by the CSR who has not been properly trained and does not know the answers to my questions (not the complicated ones in which I usually get transferred to someone else; I’m talking about the simple questions. For example, a banking CSR I talked to didn’t know that a stop payment on a check means that the money is not deposited into the payee’s account). I’ve had CSRs not know the answers to simple questions more often than not, and I blame this on training (and possibly un-motivatingly low pay), not the CSR, but I do get frustrated by this and you can hear it in my voice. So to all you CSRs out there, on behalf of customers like me, we’re not mad at you, we’re mad at the companies you work for because they don’t care enough about us, the customers, to thoroughly train CSRs to answer our questions (or at least have someone higher up readily available to help out the CSR). And when dealing with important things, such as our money, we have a right to be worried about being given incomplete or incorrect information. We appreciate that the CSRs are doing the best they can, but we don’t appreciate the businesses we keep in business cutting corners on customer service to save money. And to the writer of this article, you can tell CSRs to be polite and understanding until they’re blue in the face, but what calms down customers and makes them happy is answers and results, and I’ll take an unemotional CSR who gets the job done right over an apologizing under-informed CSR any day. I feel for CSRs because I’ve been in customer service jobs too, but, from experience, I know that the best solution is clearly communicated answers and results (and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you right now”). It will make the customer feel better, and it will make you feel more confident that you can handle the customers.

    Daniel 7 Apr at 4:48 pm
  8. Those pieces of advices was something i have looking for. i agree that, the customers are shooting at the company we the CSR’s representing and not US for god’s sake. we, are supposed to listen and understand the situation without being carried away with the customer’s angry tone. Thank you very much. I just attended my first interview and waiting for my next call.

    Punes 11 Jun at 6:30 am
  9. help me pls.. pls gve me a sample script .. conversation of a call center agent and an angry customer.. heres the scenario (a customer who’s very angry, complaining about the delayed of delivering the television at the said time -lunchtime-) the TV is a birthday present for someone… how will u calm the customer and promised him that you’ll fix the problem.. ASAP pls.. thankyou pls gve me a sample script ..

    Epol 12 Jan at 12:09 pm
  10. thank you for this great article. It really shares a lot of information and strategies about how I should handle this kind of problem. I happened to be a call center officer. I love this job. I’ve learned from time to time, that raising your voice or even giving reasonable arguments are not going to work. They’re just going to make it worse and you will end up being in an endless argumentation.

    I always react to angry customer, as if I agree with them. Sometimes, I give compliments to them. Like for example, the bank I am working for has a policy which automatically deactivates account that has no transaction within the last several months. Therefore, when a customer with inactive account tries to withdraw some money from ATM, the ATM will reject his instruction. This customer calls me and then gets angry. I usually say: “We are very sorry for the inconvenience. I understand that this should never happen to you, Sir. I can see that you are a very loyal customer. From the past transaction, I could see that you have invested a great amount of fund to our bank. I will try my best to activate your account as soon as possible. Thank you very much, Sir, for this information and suggestion. We will try our best to improve our service so this problem will never happen to you in the future. But right now, may I suggest to you that there should be at least one transaction within 3 months? This will maintain your active account status. Again, we are very sorry for the trouble….”

    compliments, emphathy, and patience are the ingredients for success in dealing with angry customers.

    rudi 16 Mar at 10:09 am
  11. Your mindset will determine not only your success but your daily feeling of happiness!

    Kate Nasser, 20 Apr at 4:04 pm
  12. thanks for this wonderful article.its really amazing

    jawad ashraf 16 May at 6:57 pm
  13. It is always so important to learn good communication skills. If you can communicate well, and not take things personally, you get better results. I have found that paraphrasing a customer’s concerns is good immediate feedback, and lets’ them know that you are hearing what they are saying – or that you need more clarification.

    Marie McCourt 27 Jul at 3:02 am
  14. In most situations what you say works. However, all companies and retailers have policies in place to protect a company and the consumer against rising prices. When an unreasonable customer expects you to break that policy because they think it’s wrong then all the empathy and understanding in the world will not help, it will just add to the situation. These type of customers you simply cannot help, they want something and you cannot give it. They will abuse you, be rude to you, you say sorry but you cannot help further and they leave. In the real world not everyone can be helped, not every customer is reasonable and not every problem has a solution.There are simply some horrible people out there that will spoil your day and it is these people that makes our job that much harder.

    James 8 Aug at 12:27 am
  15. please add more advices as they are very useful

    madjer 15 Aug at 6:19 pm
  16. customers are always right whether good or bad, though some customers are out there to frustrate your effort while trying to help them out of a nasty situation. it is the duty of any CSR to calm a customer down, show some understanding, empathy,patience etc CSR must put customers in their shoes to feel the way it hurts. it is very important for a CSR to have answers to questions at their finger tips because customers have the right to know.

    fatimah 18 Aug at 12:57 pm
  17. I will use the more calm, and relax and let the customer know that I will listen and take care of the situation as soon as I can and I will follow up with them to see if they have any more problems.

    Rose 9 Oct at 9:47 pm
  18. Some customers are completely miserable, screaming and irate, insulting your intelligence, not letting you get a word in, the second you answer the phone. I’ve studied psychology and have worked in the customer service industry for 20 years. It is not me who has the problem. I’ve calmed, helped, and sent away more pissed people happy than I can count. But the ones that are there to ruin your day. If calming them down doesn’t work and they insult you, it’s within your rights to stand up for yourself and incite them and irritate them a bit when they get personal. I’ve been called every name in the book and I refuse to take from them anymore. Nobody pays me enough money to put up with that. The customer is NOT always right.

    [Minor edit by moderator – no rude words]

    Steveaux 21 Oct at 11:49 pm
  19. I get sick of people saying I am angry when I am not, on the phone I may have a loud voice but it does not mean I am angry.

    So they should no prejudge a customer that they are always angry, customers can be upset because they are not listening properly and when they do listen it is like they do not want to help you.

    For example having to say get the Manager all the time when they could have done it themselves saves the embarrashment of the Manager plus myself.

    Ruth 17 Nov at 11:57 pm
  20. Having face this critical situation required patience from ourside and listen what the frustated customers have to tell.He need to get someone solve his problem as early as possible.The word”apologies” are the main tool to calm the angry customers and argument will give adverse result.

    Abdulnazar Thattath 14 Dec at 1:15 pm
  21. this is 4 rudi. Your post helped me alot. Im goin 4my 1st interview and u gave me an example exactly what i was looking for. Thanx keep it up

    nabz 10 Feb at 12:27 pm
  22. this was an interview question for me few days back. the question was – your colleague went to the customer to fix the AC but the AC still not working and he was sulky and screaming when you went to the customer place . How would you deal with that situation ?

    sas 3 Mar at 2:00 pm
  23. thank you for the one post this things..
    im goin to my first interview on thursday the common questions they gonna ask is how will you handle a angry customer is just like you handle a patient in a hospital who suffer from a disease thanks a lot who you are..

    sorrowchic 18 Mar at 4:47 pm
  24. I’ve only just started a job in mail order, I’m used to working face to face with customers, and I am shocked at how much ruder a customer is over the phone than face to face. For some reason it’s easier for people to be rude on the phone than to your face, probably because you’re deconnected from the person you’re speaking to, you can’t see their body language, and you can’t see how much your upsetting them… I’ve worked in a shop for 5 years, and never had to deal with this much aggression on a daily basis. I wont last very long in this job, it’s too stressful for me. But while I look for a new job, I’m going to try the techniques advised above, and hopefully they will help. But I do think that if the company you’re working for isn’t very good, or efficient, then you’re the one who gets the blame. Which is extremely frustrating when there’s nothing you can do about it except agree with the customer that the company is rubbish.

    kat 20 Mar at 2:19 pm
  25. thank u

    raj 11 Apr at 5:59 am
  26. hie,
    i am going to have 2nd interview with a bank for customer service job. and i am so nervous about the situtational questions i.e. tell about a situtation where you faced a angry customer and how you handle it? I have never worked before and it is going to be the first job. please help and give a suitable example.

    Gk Aulakh 11 Apr at 2:35 pm
  27. Hi GK, you can be honest and say that you have never faced such a situation as you have never been employed before. But you can say that if and when such a situation arise, you would handle it by being calm and professional and helpful. You would investigate the matter and provide the correct solution to the customer. And if its beyond your reach, you will explain that to the customer and get the supervisor’s help.
    Just try to be clear when you answer at the interview. Hope this helped. Good Luck

    Nadz 12 Apr at 6:28 am
  28. It has been said in some modern business teachings that ‘the customer is always right’ is a false statement. ‘the RIGHT customer is always right’ is a more accurate saying that adheres to the 80/20 principle that 80% of your revenue that comes from 20% of best your customers. Spending 80% of your time dealing with the bottom 20% that can never be pleased or are not the right fit for your business is a time sink. It might be efficient but not productive.

    Seek first to understand then be understood and emphatic listening are basics to any good communication.

    Fire your worst customers and spend the additional time on the top 20% with random acts of wowness for greater profitibility and less tedious work environment.

    Dave 26 May at 10:33 am
  29. Thank you, this is going to help me alot on my first job interview

    John Mortar 19 Jun at 8:21 pm
  30. I used to work in a famous fast food restruant which i shall not name, and the amount of angry customers we got was almost ridiculous. One of our managers used to argue with them, and whilst it was fairly amusing (and at times, scary) to see the argument escalate, it wasted a lot of time and energy. Should I ever go back into that line of work again, I will take this article’s advice 🙂

    Emi 4 Jul at 11:51 pm
  31. eat your pride!!!coz they are your customers where in your sources of income

    Anonymous 3 Aug at 8:45 am
  32. My experience with customer service includes 20 years as a Police Officer. Although it may not seem relevant the experiences there taught me that to calm a potential, or already heated situation is to remain calm and Listen.

    Taking on an US vs THEM mentality is great…just make sure you let the customer know you are on their side, and resolving thier issue is what you live for.

    Good Article…thanks.

    Ron H. 18 Aug at 11:10 am
  33. it’s 2 much helping me in training day by d way thanks-)

    Anjali 28 Nov at 6:13 pm
  34. Thanks, this article is very useful not only to call center agent but also for every success men “Angry man open his mouth and shuts his eyes” I love to handle irate customers and make the call a Wow one coz customers are innocent and they do shout only when we people don’t value their voice.

    irshad Nawfer 17 Mar at 5:20 am
  35. Having spend a number if years on the receiving end of customers complaining I have to say there are a few out there known as “Bad Customers”. Yes, look it up I kid you not, not every customer has a problem to resolve. I’ve had crazy people who didn’t have issues they just wanted to make something out of nothing. Some of the worse are customer employees, you know when they are calling in as a customer but they cross over and start ordering you around they you report to them with unreasonable requests. A well known large phone company is notorious for employees that love to behave this way.

    unnamed 20 Apr at 6:21 pm
  36. I worked customer service for 10 years in call centers and the above was definitely good advice a few years ago; you had time in-between calls to de-stress back then. However, now that most companies let go of large amounts of CSRs and have the remaining workers take 2-3 times the amount of calls FOR THE SAME SALARY it’s completely different.

    The present reality is that calls are non-stop which allows no time to de-stress after a difficult call. Sure, managers will tell you to take a breather if you find yourself getting stressed but then they turn right back around and yell at you for poor stats (which are now more important to companies than de-stressed CSR’s who give better service) which just stresses you out again.

    Bottomline, companies don’t want to give great customer service, they want to give OK service. Their present strategy is to burn out their workers and then simply hire new ones. This saves them a lot of money because they can basically reset salaries this way by firing an older, better paid worker for poor stats (happens easily once you get burned out) and hiring a fresh but inexperienced, new employee at the lowest starting wage. So, when you call, you either get an older, experienced worker who knows what they are doing but is burned out and ready to snap, or a nice representative that does not know what they are doing and will make mistakes but will be pleasant.

    For this to change, upper management salaries need to come back down to earth and the saved money from that should be used to HIRE ENOUGH WORKERS so that they do not burn out their workforce. This would allow CSRs to become more experienced thereby making less mistakes but still able to remain pleasant as a moderate workload allows time to de-stress.

    Anonymous 15 May at 7:19 pm
  37. This is a quote I wrote after hearing other employees complain about calls from angry customers. I actually like those calls. I enjoy hearing the angry customers voice calm down and they say an appreciative thank you at the end on a call.

    “Working with a disatified customer is your greatest opportunity for success in customer service”
    Terry Ullsperger

    Terry Ullsperger 13 Jun at 5:34 pm
  38. Good pieces of advice. Thank you.

    Golong 16 Aug at 12:06 pm
  39. wow..made my day to read all the comments. some I can found really true.. thanks all.

    cs analyst 24 Aug at 7:26 pm
  40. This works only if the CSR has no direct control over what the customer wants, say the delivery of the products. What if say, I am an accoutant, and due to a lot of invoices to process, I could no longer handle anymore invoices to process for payment, and then a supplier calls, demanding for payment. That would be difficult to tackle because you cannot just tell them that you understand how they feel. You will also have to give them an assurance that they will be paid at a certain specific time, which I really should do or else the next time the supplier calls, an issue of “not keeping a promise” will rise up, which will become additional problem.

    Christian Carlo A. de Jesus 14 Nov at 9:57 pm
  41. You can use these tips in any situation, not just with angry customers.
    Use these tips in your every day life. Seriously.

    Joseph 7 Dec at 7:12 am
  42. Customer is always right,keep this in mind.If he is calling u that means either he is angry or he is in a suggestive stage.If he is angry use ur ears rather than ur mouth and if he is in a suggestive stage use ur mouth. Our bread and butter is customer just think that if we dont have someone to call how can we manage our bread and butter.
    Aditya 9810687187

    aditya 5 Feb at 11:08 am
  43. What do you do if the customer uses very rude language, do hang up or say Excuse me I will not accept this language and will cease the call if used again ?

    David 18 Mar at 7:05 pm
  44. Lot’s of good points here. The “controlling one’s own anger” and “destressing oneself” jump out. The destressing is important so you don’t take out your frustration from previous callers on the next ones.

    The question though is HOW one does that, and perhaps we need to drill down to specific techniques people can use. HOW do you control your own anger? There are some ways to improve one’s ability to do these things, and we’ve mapped out a few more specific tactics to try at .

    Robert Bacal 8 May at 12:32 pm
  45. I´ve read the article and most of the comments. It helped me realize that I still need to learn a lot of things but hopefully, I could make it to the industry. Thank you for all the tips, comments and suggestions that you had shared here.

    Aly 1 Dec at 7:40 am
  46. After 6 years in the call center, I received my worst call yesterday. I waived one document but definitely required another to action a simple request. The customer sent the wrong doc and refused to send anything else. It resulted in the worst email complaint I’ve ever seen, to the CEO. During the call I addressed his objectionable manner asking if something else had happened to cause his distrust which calmed him down. Overall, I suggest always having your managers number ready to transfer. No action was taken against me but today I don’t feel like the exceptional performer I’ve been awarded!

    Kasey 18 Feb at 11:31 pm
  47. To be honest, even though customers can be frustrating the company can be the csrs worst night mare. 3 hours of non stop irate customers with no break between calls makes the csr grumpy. Where I work there is rarely a wait zs soon as there is they send people home. Customers wait 1 to 2 mins after the automated just to speak to a technical rep. I just got finished getting yelled at..hung ip on or called a name and sometimes while I am finishing a call my new customer hears part of the closing. So sometimes frustration is not with the customer but the situation of no time to decompress before the yelling starts over

    rrachael 22 May at 8:41 am
  48. Things I have noticed:

    Restating what you just said in different words leads to restating it multiple times. If you need to repeat it, repeat it, but don’t reinvent it-you will send a mixed message.

    Many people are balanced on the edge mentally-don’t deliberately tip them off the edge.

    Do not mushroom the situation-dragging multiple employees into it is drama queen behavior. I cannot begin to tell you how many situations I have seen explode and by the time it is resolved it is customer 1, employees 12.

    ysi 24 Sep at 5:49 pm
  49. I just discovered Call Center Helper today and so much useful information all around. Will be a regular trotter here from now on, I guess.

    I love the point of not taking it personally when you are speaking as a CSR. There might be a lot of customers who might have made repeat calls and not got their problem solved.

    For them, you aren’t the first customer care representative they are speaking to. Maybe 3rd or 4th.

    The more you listen, the easier will be your job. If you take up a combative mode, it will only end up making the situation uglier.

    Alissa Addison 7 Mar at 7:45 am
  50. Hi .
    What is the answer for situational question .

    about one of the customer ordered products and then when it reach to her , it has a damage .she complain to you and ask to return it .what will you do? Since the company’s policy is no return of products
    Please answer to this situational question .thank you .

    riZ 8 Nov at 4:19 am
  51. This is my first job as a service representative today the first call i got was from an angry client who started raising there voice and woukdnt let me speak i ended up frustrated and raised my voice for them to hear but that didnt help at all because they didnt stop just continued now i fear i will be fired.

    Jorge 19 Nov at 5:12 am
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