The 10 Commandments of How to Handle Angry Customers

The 10 Commandments of Angry Customers

By Kordell Norton

I – Thou Shalt Assume That Thy Customer Has Rights . . . Including Anger

Every decision is made by its decision maker.  That person may not be the smartest, most qualified, or the right person to be making the decision . . . but it is still their decision.  It is our job to persuade them as much as we can to make the right decision, or in our favor if that is the case.  That decision maker has the title of CUSTOMER.  If they don’t make it in our favor then we need to take a deep breath and accept that we need to live with their right to make the decision. 

If their choices bring anger, then we have to respect and acknowledge that anger.  We do not have to agree with it, but we do need to respect it.

Chances are most likely that the anger is due to the customer feeling they are, or will not, be heard.  The anger is an effect then of a bigger cause . . . of not listening.  You must start moving them away from the anger (the effect . . . hacking at the leaves) and focus on getting to the root (the cause) of the problem where the fix can be found.

Acknowledge their anger.  You do not need to agree with them, but you do need to recognize their frustration.  To not do so only compounds the issue with additional anger. 

II – Thou Shalt Not Follow the Eye for an Eye Path.  Likes attract. . . Emotion to Emotion.

It has been said that, “a man in passion . . . rides a wild horse.”  Just because the customer is wound up does not mean you need to follow them into the emotional spiral.  Maturity and experience teaches that most things that create panic and anger really don’t warrant it.  When you stay calm and removed, while still respecting the customer’s emotion . . . then you become the sane and civil mind that helps pull the issues out, while helping move the customer to solutions; and away from their anger. 

III – Thou Shalt Show Patience

If you feel like you have “heard this before” and are tempted to jump to the solution, you may miss the deeper issue, or some nuance.  In both cases you then become part of the problem.  When you let them “get it all out”, with patience and understanding, then there are no festering issues that might flare up into full fledged forest fires in the future.  You also, by listening patiently, show the depth of your maturity and that you want to solve the problem and not just whitewash the issue.

IV – Thou Shalt Speak Softly

If you lower your voice volume there is a natural tendency for the customer to ratchet down their communication as well.  The emotion will drain along with the partnering intense language.  In 14 different translations of the three thousand year old wisdom the message still comes through:  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

V – Thou Shalt Hear the Word of the Customer and Let Them Know Thou Hast Heard


By mirroring back to the customer what they said, you are communicating, “I think I heard you, but can I double check, just in case I missed something?”.   Be parroting back you show respect, patience, and understanding of the issue. 

Those learning how to deal with irate customers can do well to learn from the Department of Redundancy Department.  You must go as slow as the customer requires.  You work for them, not the other way around.

VI – Thou Shalt Own the Problem, Not Thy Brother, Nor Thy Sister.

Once you have come this far, for you to pass the issue onto someone else means steps 1 to 5 have to be done by someone else. . . again.  If they do not do it right then all of your work is for naught.  It is the amateur manager, the inexperienced worker who shifts the responsibility.  You may indeed need to get others involved, but you still need to own the customer and the issue.  This foundation of owning the customer perspective insures consistency, fairness and professionalism.  Those that pass the buck do not stay in positions of influence . . . period. 

VII – Thou Shalt Forgive The People and Focus On The Issue

Problems come and go but People are Forever

Like the Whack-a-Mole game, when you solve one problem, another often pops up.  Problems then will morph and change.  To focus on the problem then is to miss the key.  People are forever.  It is the customer with whom you want to have a relationship with.  Place the Customer first and the problem second.

VIII – Thou Shalt Use Wisdom and Judgment in Fixing the Problems.

Once you understand the problem you can then decide the course of action.  Then you can decide it the problem is a “all hands on deck” or if this is something that can be worked into the daily activities.

This is called triage.  To prescribe without diagnosis is called malpractice but to not take action can be worse.  Only you, the one who fully understand the issues is qualified to determine next steps.

IX – Thou Shalt Chose Rightly

Correct the issue.  “If it is to be . . .then it is up to me,”  requires you to stand out as the go to person who listens, respects and then DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT! 

X – Thou Shalt Be Steadfast In Correction Forever and Ever

Follow Up.  You may well fix the issue, but you still need to circle back to the customer to make sure they know of the changes and fixes.  If you don’t then you can expect to start back at #1. 

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