It's easy to lose a customer for good with just one bad experience. Bad experiences are more likely to stick in a customer's mind than good ones, and one bad experience can wipe out several good experiences. Dealing with angry customers is no fun, but you should consider any angry customer to be an emergency situation.
Not only can an angry customer deny you hundreds or even thousands in business over time, but he or she could easily spread the word, reinforcing that negative image so that others are driven away. Taking time to understand how to handle an angry customer can help protect your image, even though some difficult customers may be hard to satisfy.
Difficult customers are sometimes trying to take advantage of your business – but most times, dealing with angry customers means working to fix a legitimate grievance. If you manage to do it, then you could win that customer's respect, turning a negative into a positive.
Whole books have been written on customer care, but there's one great place to start:
What Not to Say to Your Angry Customer
It can take a lot of experience to learn how to handle a difficult situation with a customer, but you can start here: These responses often come naturally, but you should avoid them at all costs. In fact, odds are that you've heard some of them yourself! These only escalate the situation.
While it seems like the most natural thing in the world to say in a situation where someone seems to be “out of control,” there's very little chance that this will actually calm someone down. By drawing attention to their mood, they think you're not taking their complaint seriously.
“That's not my responsibility.”
As the owner or proprietor, every aspect of the business is your responsibility, so you would probably never say this. However, no matter what kind of business you have, your associates should be taught to avoid saying it and to escalate the problem to a supervisor if they need help.
Despite what the old adage says, customers are frequently wrong. However, you never want to put a customer on the spot and “force” them to take responsibility for their mistake unless you are sure that they're being dishonest with you – that's not the kind of customer you want.
Which brings us to:
“We don't need your business.”
You never want to say anything like this – or anything else that a customer might take personally. While you might not want to see them again, actually saying so can be the difference between getting what you want and getting a whole helping of negative word of mouth besides.
“Go to [competitor] if that's what you want.”
More and more businesses in a variety of industries are learning to adapt to the positive points of their competitors, especially local competitors who are right down the street or around the corner. Be prepared to honor rivals' coupons or even adjust your special deals and offers.
While this is really only the beginning when it comes to how to handle an angry customer, you can go a long way by starting with the worst things you can say or do and working your way up. If you're just getting started, you might consider focusing your staff training on these points, then coaching your team members to think of more constructive responses they can use instead.