angry customer

“The customer is always right.” This is the motto many retailers live by, and while some customer complaints have easy fixes, others may cause you to lose your patience. 

Small businesses especially need to keep their composure with difficult shoppers because their livelihood is based on superior customer experiences. Providing top-tier service is one of the most basic and effective ways to bolster your business’s sales and growth, but it is not always easy. Difficult customers present unique challenges and require specific training and techniques to satisfy their needs. 

Here are eight best steps to help diffuse a situation and turn an unhappy customer into a loyal shopper:

  1. Properly Train Your Customer Support Team
  2. Remain Calm and Listen to the Complaint
  3. Consider Their Affect Heuristic
  4. Repeat the Concerns Back to the Customer
  5. Use the Shopper’s Name
  6. Offer the Customer a Solution
  7. “Chunk” the Problem
  8. Thank the Customer

1. Properly Train Your Customer Support Team

Your shoppers will remember negative experiences, so retailers need to have a customer support team ready to deal with upset shoppers and make them happy, according to Michael Podolsky, CEO and Co-Founder of PissedConsumer.com. For all cases, when there is a complaint from a consumer, your customer support should follow these steps: 

  • React Fast.
    If you answer upset shoppers within an hour after the complaint, there is a higher chance that you can successfully close the issue and make the customer satisfied. 
  • Acknowledge Your Mistakes.
    Everyone can make a mistake, but customers expect you to admit it and offer a solution on how to manage their claim. 
  • Do Not Make Promises You Cannot Keep.
    Never offer a full refund if it is not possible. Be honest about all policies and terms. If a full refund is not possible, make sure you provide alternative benefits to compensate for the disappointment. Remember to show your shoppers that you care and appreciate their loyalty. It could ultimately make them happy. 

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2. Remain Calm and Listen to the Complaint

The worst thing you can do is talk over the customer or argue with them. Let them have their say, even if they are mistaken and do not have all of the right information. As you listen, take the opportunity to understand why they are upset and relate to them, as this can greatly help with your response and diffuse the situation. 

To help remain calm when a customer is yelling at you, remember to:

  • Just breathe.
  • Lower your voice when you talk back to them, as this can help to calm both you and the customer.
  • Respond as if everyone in the store is watching.
  • Remember that you are interacting with a human who is allowed to make mistakes.

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3. Consider Their Affect Heuristic

The affect heuristic is a mental shortcut that helps you make quick and efficient decisions based on how you feel toward a person, place, or situation. It explains the fact that we all make decisions and judgements based on our worldviews and experiences. 

Hubspot suggests that in these situations, if a customer keeps asking “What’s the catch?” and delaying the onboarding process with rescheduling and endless due diligence, it might not be helpful to say, “You’ve already purchased an annual subscription for this marketing software. Can we move forward?” 

Your customer could have had a bad experience where they were unknowingly trapped into a year-long contract with a vendor who did not deliver on their promises. So instead of getting stuck in an endless loop with the shopper, ask questions that may help diffuse or even resolve the situation such as, “I would like to understand. Tell me more why you are skeptical” and “How can I help you feel comfortable enough to move forward.”

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4. Repeat the Concerns Back to the Customer

According to Indeed, stating the problem shows that you are listening and paying attention. This also confirms for yourself exactly what the problem is so that there is no misunderstanding. For example, “Just to be sure that I understand, you are upset that the cake you ordered did not feed 24 people, and it was also missing the layer of strawberry jam at the center that you had requested.” Something that specific has more clarity than simply saying, “I understand you did not like the cake we baked for you.” 

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5. Use the Shopper’s Name

Calling someone by their name adds a level of personalization to any situation, and it can greatly increase your chances of calming a customer down. This is a very effective strategy when trying to calm an angry customer, especially if they will not lower their voice or are drawing the attention of other shoppers. 

eDesk states that using the customer’s name shows you care, and it also reminds them that you are a real person working for a real company. It also shows that you respect the consumer enough to use their name. 

Here are some tips to follow when using a customer’s name: 

  • Use their name sparingly. Addressing someone by their name too often can make the situation awkward.
  • Create snippets to find and pull in customer information quickly and use it to further personalize the conversation. 

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6. Offer the Customer a Solution

Even if the customer was wrong or had misinformation in their complaint, it is still wise to offer some sort of solution. Not only will this calm the customer down, but it will also improve your reputation. For example, if a shopper is angry that the cashier will not apply a specific coupon, and when you talk with them you find out that it is because the coupon is expired, it would be wise to still offer the coupon or some sort of discount instead of denying them completely. 

Here are some reasons as to why coming up with a solution can positively impact your business:

  • By communicating politely and finding a resolution, you can retain this customer for future transactions
  • A customer who was pleased with how you managed the problem might reverse their view and give positive feedback to your supervisor or in an online review. 
  • Solving the problem might show you how to fix an issue in the company to prevent this from happening again, and thereby improve a part of the company’s process.

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7. “Chunk” the Problem

If the issue cannot be easily resolved, such as allowing the customer to still use an expired coupon, Hubspot suggests that you “chunk” the problem. Chunking is the process of taking one big issue and breaking it into several smaller, more manageable portions. These small portions are easier to tackle, and can make dealing with the issue at hand more tolerable. Many people use chunking to organize their daily tasks or help to manage challenging problems. 

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8. Thank the Customer

Lastly, no matter what the complaint is at hand, it is always important to thank the shopper for their concerns and for doing business with you. As a business owner, your goal is to provide the best experience possible for each customer that walks through your door, and any feedback, good or bad, can help your brand to grow and become a better resource. Also be sure to express to the consumer that you hope to see them back in the future, and see if there is anything else you can do that will help them to feel better. 

In certain cases, you may want to follow up with the customer to ensure that the issue is definitely resolved. For example, if a customer was upset about an item that broke after they just purchased it and you helped to swap it out for a new product, you should follow up with them after one or two weeks and see if the new item is still working and intact. The shopper is sure to remember this follow-up and appreciate you taking the time out of your day to ensure they are satisfied. 

“Are there any ways difficult customers can benefit a retailer? My answer is ‘Yes, definitely!’ Every angry shopper and every negative review helps you understand what you are doing wrong, what you should improve, or how not to act. If you have a choice of no feedback or negative comments, the second option is better,” Podolsky said.

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