How to Handle Angry & Disappointed Customers

Today’s quick acronym is H.A.D. – as in;

angry customer service quality

“You H.A.D. Me at Hello!”

Whether you’re employed as a customer service professional, or you work on the desk that receives customer service “enquiries” or you’re the engineer / expert / short-straw-puller who has to go and see the people who have any level of issue or complaint with your product or service – you approach difficult customers in 1 of 3 ways.

You either;

  • Help

  • Argue or

  • Defend

But here’s the big pointer when it comes to dealing with any disappointed customers;

Behaviour Breeds Behaviour

So, let’s take those 3 default settings one at a time and see if we can’t shed a little light on to each one – and then we can see how useful they really are with regards to achieving customer satisfaction – but before we do, let’s turn the acronym upside-down, so that we start with;


I know that product or service probably pays your mortgage, I know how you feel about it – maybe you own it – hey, you might even have created the darn thing.

I also know, you don’t really want to be rude to this person – we all just want to keep them on side, make sure they leave a positive, happy – soon to be returning – customer.

But, heck that criticism doesn’t half cut you to the bone.

However, just before you get on that defensive high-horse of yours – do you think it’s actually going to do you any good?

Do you think this angry human being in front of you really cares about your carefully crafted explanation of history, time and effort – or why all those other customers went away happy?

Ask yourself this;

If you felt that you had been served some level of consumer injustice, would it make you feel any better to learn that everyone else was gut-bustingly happy about the service they’d received?

Or how about if you complained that your hotel bed hadn’t been changed since the last guest slept in it – would it help if the receptionist said, “Oh, we don’t normally miss a room out when we’re cleaning”?


These infuriating, rude people – How very dare they!

You spend all your time, – bending over backwards – with a short-sighted minority, who complain about nothing – nothing at all – what is their problem?

Don’t they realise that:

    • The product isn’t poor quality – it was clearly over-used.
    • That meal’s not under-seasoned – it’s been left to taste as God intended.
  • The order isn’t wrong. How can it be wrong when you never asked for it to be anything else?

Listen, I know what you want to tell them – they come at you all angry and unreasonable – and you sense that most of the time they don’t even know what they’re talking about.

But, if behaviour breeds behaviour – then, trust me – they were already in the mood for an argument way before you decided to start one.

Remember – no one likes to be told they’ve got an ugly baby – and even it was true, very few would ever see it that way.


So, if you want to diffuse those uncomfortable situations and get the most from your interactions with all those disappointed or angry customers, the best thing you can do is start off by intending to help.

Put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel? You stomp in to make your point – and then someone actually tries to help – how would you react?

And – you know – whenever you go in to argue or defend your position from the very start, it says so much more about your mind-set than it does about how they feel about their problem.

So – I hear you ask – how do we diffuse each and every awkward customer interaction with this helpful attitude?

Start Open-Minded

This is tough at first, but with practise you’ll get the inner confidence to approach each customer service situation with a blank sheet of paper – a clear mind that enables you to find out what the real problems and issues are.

Use Who, What, Why, Where, How and When to ask great questions that get to the core information you really need to help.

Adopt a Helpful E.A.R.

I’m going to be cheeky and sneak in an extra acronym in here – one that I’ll cover in greater detail in another article.

Use E.A.R. to remind you how to get the best results when dealing with customers who feel badly done to.

Empathy – When you recognise where the pain is, you can understand it and feel for their dilemma.

If I’m unhappy, I don’t want sympathy, I want understanding – I want empathy.

If I was your friend in a similar situation you’d say something like;

“Oh, I’m sorry – I can’t imagine how upset you must be – what can I do?”

You see, you’re not necessarily apologising for making the mistake yourself – you probably didn’t – you’re empathising with the person who has the problem, you’re expressing your sorrow for their situation.

Acceptance – You are the one who has been put in place to talk to these people – they have no one else – and you are also the employee who is being paid to do so.

Therefore you need to be the person who accepts responsibility for helping those customers to the very best of your ability.

Recognition – I’ve listened, felt your pain and understood your problem.

It’s now clear to you that I accept my responsibility – my duty of care to you as an aggrieved customer – but also to you as a fellow human being.

Now I’m going to make sure that I fully understand what really happened and then help you understand exactly what I can – and what I will be doing – for you, to try and put this right.

As the great Stephen R. Covey said;

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” 


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