How to Deal with Angry Customers: 19 Proven Tips

Ishita Nigam

Jayadeep Subhashis

December 21, 20239 min read

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On December 16, 2022, a passenger aboard an IndiGo flight, in collaboration with Turkish Airlines, flying from Istanbul to Delhi, faced a predicament when an incorrectly ordered meal arrived. The ensuing dispute between the passenger and a crew member went viral and ignited a debate on the appropriateness of the crew member's response.

This incident is a stark reminder that all brands inevitably encounter angry customers. As we delve into the strategies for how to handle angry customers and managing such situations, it is paramount for businesses to discern the root cause of customer annoyance. 

In this blog, discover the underlying causes that often fuel customer dissatisfaction, explore effective strategies to rectify root issues and most importantly, gain insights into adeptly managing interactions with angry customers. Furthermore, explore the instrumental role of AI in expediting issue resolution, ultimately contributing to customer happiness.

Table of Contents

Top reasons why customers usually get angry

Transparent presentation of your products and services is imperative, ensuring a harmonious alignment between promises made pre-purchase and post-purchase expectations. Customers often express dissatisfaction due to the following reasons:   

  • Usability of product or service: A mismatch between promised features and actual performance often leads to customer annoyance. You should prioritize transparency in your sales process to minimize post-purchase challenges, preventing a flood of calls from frustrated customers to your inbound contact center.  

  • Impact of recent updates on customer experience: Staying competitive demands regular updates to products and services, including changes in price points. Having a crisis communication plan about impending upgrades is crucial to avoid issues such as potential service disruption and unexpected lags in performance that customers may experience after a major overhaul.  

  • Accessibility of customer support: The ease with which customers can reach your customer service plays a pivotal role. Even minor issues can quickly escalate into frustration if the path to resolution is cumbersome. Monitor key contact center metrics, such as average hold time and call abandonment rate, to maintain customer satisfaction.  

  • Poor service experience: When customers encounter difficulty finding a satisfactory resolution, frustration often sets in. While meeting every customer request or expectation might not be practical, navigating these customer service scenarios determines whether a customer departs with a sense of reasonable satisfaction or pledges never to engage with your business again.   

  • Personal problems: Customers may find themselves wrestling with personal difficulties, and when these issues intersect with any inconveniences caused by your product or service, it triggers a cascade of heightened emotions and strong reactions. While beyond your control, this scenario underscores the crucial role of call center agent training in effectively serving sensitive customers with empathy and active listening. 

 Read more: How to show empathy in customer service

19 Ways to handle angry customers

First and foremost, businesses must recognize that customers typically reach out only when they encounter difficulties that remain unresolved despite using your other channels, such as the website or helpdesk software.

Simultaneously, frontline agents must grasp that the tone directed at them is not personal but rather an expression of the inconvenience faced by a paying customer who trusts your products or services.  On this note, the following section outlines 19 proven tips on what to do and what to avoid when handling interactions with an angry customer. 

1. Introduce yourself

Begin by introducing yourself and your position in the company. This communicates to the customer that the issue is being taken seriously and handled by the relevant employees. 

Address the customer by name throughout the conversation, using either their first name or adding Mr. or Ms. based on discretion. 

2. Maintain your composure 

Stay calm, even when a customer blames you for poor service. Losing your cool can adversely affect the situation.

Learn more: 3 Important qualities of customer service 

3. Listen carefully 

Allow the customer to express their concerns, actively listening to understand the root cause of the issue. This applies to interactions on call, in person or via digital channels.

AI advantage: Contact center supervisors and quality analysts can assess and optimize agent performance by scoring them on 30+ quality and compliance parameters, including opening/closing quality, intro, active listening, empathy and more, with our advanced quality management software. The best part? All the scoring is done by the underlying AI technology, with zero manual intervention.

Quality management software powered by Sprinklr Service

4. Acknowledge and apologize

Regardless of the validity of the complaint, acknowledging the customer's situation and offering an apology at the outset can de-escalate the situation. Take ownership of the issue, even if it wasn't directly your fault. Demonstrating responsibility builds trust and shows a commitment to resolution.

5. Be professional

Respond professionally without matching the customer's abusive style. Maintain a neutral tone and refrain from becoming defensive. Always remember that handling situations like these is an integral part of an agent's job, and such instances provide an opportunity to showcase why you are the best fit for the role.

Read more: 5 Ways of responding to customer complaints [+ real examples]

6. Identify the real issue

"I don't think you understand what I am saying" - the line doesn't cast your agents in a positive light. Train your agents on effective communication, guiding them on phrases to use and avoid during support interactions. Encourage using the right questions to understand the root cause, leading to quicker resolutions swiftly.

Suggested read: What is first contact resolution (and practical tips to improve it)

7. Summarize the problem

After attentively listening to the concerns of the upset customer, summarize and reiterate the issues to them. This practice allows the customer to identify discrepancies and ensures that both parties are aligned on the concerns, facilitating navigation toward the optimal solution.

Pro Tip: Sprinklr AI+, facilitated by its integration with GenAI models, automates case summarization and disposition. This significantly reduces the administrative burden on agents, allowing them to transition to the next customer interaction swiftly. This capability is particularly crucial when dealing with irate customers awaiting assistance. The AI-driven efficiency extends beyond individual interactions, contributing to an overall improvement in customer service quality.

8. Employ historical data

Retrieve historical data about the customer and any analogous issues encountered by others using the contact center CRM. With a comprehensive understanding of the situation and its context, you can adopt a data-driven approach and provide more informed suggestions to address the problem effectively.  

Good to know: Modern agent assist software recommends similar past cases right on the call, surfacing relevant knowledge base articles and guided workflows for seamless resolution. The AI-powered assistance leads to an increased first call resolution rate, significantly boosting agent productivity.

Auto-fetching of past cases with Sprinklr Agent Assist Software

9. Identify the plan of action

Establish an action plan and communicate a clear timeline for resolution. Prioritize the issue if,

  • The caller holds a premium customer status with an enterprise plan and has demonstrated long-term loyalty (while maintaining equitable treatment for every paying customer).

  • A service level agreement (SLA) breach has occurred.

  • There is an indication that any additional delay in resolution may lead to customer churn. 

 10. Develop critical thinking

Payment delays and subsequent service disruptions are recurring challenges in the banking, telecom and broadcasting industries. Consider whether a temporary extension of service until payment can be secured to address the immediate issue. Similarly, a prompt refund can help alleviate concerns in cases of accidental customer overcharges.

Here's how to develop critical thinking:

- Collaboratively examine each stage of the process with the customer to pinpoint the root cause of the problem.    

- When there's a suspicion that the issue may have originated from the customer's end, diligently seek comprehensive answers by requesting detailed information from the customer.

11. Shift to another channel (if necessary)

Consider transitioning your conversation from live chat to phone or other contact center channels if it accelerates resolution. In B2B customer service, leveraging video calls and screen-sharing for troubleshooting technical issues is not uncommon. However, avoid forcing a shift; be present with your customers and ensure their comfort. 

Pro Tip: When considering transitioning your conversation to another channel, leverage omnichannel routing software for a seamless customer experience. Omnichannel routing ensures that your agents can access a unified view of customer interactions across various customer service channels. This not only facilitates a smooth transition but also enables continuity in customer engagement.

Omnichannel support with Sprinklr Service

12. Avoid putting them on hold for too long

Putting an already frustrated customer on hold can exacerbate the situation. Recognize that they've already navigated through the IVR and waited in the queue. While putting them on hold may sometimes be inevitable for fetching information, communicate this politely for a swift resolution.

Good to know: A modern unified agent console, powered by AI, equips your agents with real-time, relevant information and a comprehensive history of customer interactions across channels. AI continuously monitors ongoing conversations, providing instant assistance through course correction prompts, knowledge recommendations and optimal action suggestions. This proactive support minimizes the need for extended hold times, contributing to a significant reduction in average handle time by up to 30%.

Unified agent console with Sprinklr Service

13. Apprise your manager if needed

Always stay assured that, if necessary, you can escalate the situation to a senior manager. While escalations may impact contact center metrics like first call resolution (FCR), average handle time (AHT), customer satisfaction and NPS, they also reflect your company's commitment to customer sentiments and accessible upper management when needed.

Deep dive: Escalation management: How to manage it effectively

14. Know your limits

One simple rule here – avoid overpromising and underdelivering. While accommodating reasonable requests, recognize and stand firm against unfair demands. This ensures a balanced and fair interaction.

15. Know when to end the conversation
If a customer becomes too abusive or threatening, consider ending the conversation. Here, contact center compliance and call recording come in handy.

Contact center compliance establishes a structured and legal foundation for handling challenging customer interactions. By providing guidelines, training, legal safeguards and protocols, compliance measures create a professional and secure environment for agents and customers. This ensures that even in difficult situations, interactions are handled with professionalism and adherence to legal and ethical standards.

AI advantage: To support customer support teams and brand managers, Sprinklr AI offers smart response compliance, ensuring each brand response aligns with established standards. A yellow flag is generated for non-compliant responses, aiding in risk management and crisis prevention. Agents can provide feedback on compliance checks to enhance accuracy.

16. Take some time out

Recognize the emotional toll on agents dealing with angry customers. Allow them time between interactions to prevent call center burnout and foster a healthy contact center environment.

17. Be grateful

Express gratitude for the customer using your services and reaching out when needed, building rapport and leaving a positive impression.

18. Follow up

After resolving the issue, follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction. This shows an ongoing commitment to their experience.

19. Deploy call center technology

Utilize call center technology and contact center AI to streamline issue resolution and elevate the overall customer experience. Chatbots and virtual agents can respond immediately to common customer queries, expediting issue resolution. This efficiency proves especially advantageous when dealing with angry customers who require prompt solutions.

Automated responses – but with a human touch

While chatbot responses may sometimes come off as robotic and impersonal, exacerbating the frustration of angry customers, genAI-enriched conversational platforms like Sprinklr AI+ emerge as a reliable solution.

Designed explicitly for humanized automated responses, Sprinklr AI+ excels in context-gathering and tone moderation. These features ensure that automated interactions maintain a personalized touch, fostering a more empathetic and effective customer engagement, even in challenging situations.

Learn more about Sprinklr AI+

Why is helping upset customers important?

It’s essential to understand that if happy, paying customers is a reason for you to celebrate, dissatisfied customers hint towards the potential gaps in your product or service where there is scope for improvement or issues you might not even be aware of. There are also other important reasons why angry customers need special attention.    

  • To allay the revenge seekers: A recent study found that 74% of customers face troubles with products or services, and 9% are keen on settling the scores with the company by any means necessary. This figure of revenge-seekers has tripled from 3% in 2020. Customers are not letting their anger go easily and may take it out on the company on social media or in public.

  • To retain the customer: Much cheaper than customer acquisition, customer retention is a priority for businesses. It's crucial to remember that customers always remember the best service experience with a brand, leading them to become loyal brand advocates over time.

  • To avoid negative word of mouth: Unhappy customers are more likely to share their negative experiences with others. By actively identifying customer intent and helping upset customers resolve their concerns, you can prevent them from badmouthing your brand. A satisfied customer is less likely to share negative reviews or comments, helping to maintain a positive brand image.

Intent and sentiment analysis with Sprinklr Quality Management Software
  • To change their perception: Addressing upset customers works towards transforming their perception of your brand. Swiftly and effectively resolving their issues turns a negative experience into a positive one, significantly influencing their overall perception and fostering loyalty to your brand.

Turn angry customers into loyal ones with Sprinklr Service 

According to a study, 66% of respondents find the need to repeat the same information across multiple employees or channels extremely frustrating. To address this common pain point, consider leveraging Sprinklr Service. Built on the world’s only Unified Customer Experience Management Platform (Unified-CXM), it empowers your agents with AI-powered tools and technology designed explicitly for handling irate customers, such as:  

  • Conversational AI platform: Gauge customer intent and sentiment in real-time 

  • Quality management software: Identify strengths and areas of improvement for each individual agent with AI-scoring parameters such as opening/closing quality, intro, active listening, empathy and more

  • Sprinklr AI+: Sprinklr's GenAI integration actively moderates agent tone, fostering more empathetic interactions while intelligently flagging any responses that may deviate from compliance standards. 

For an in-depth product walkthrough of Sprinklr Service, register for a demo with our experts today. Alternatively, you can take advantage of a 30-day Free Trial to explore the platform at your own pace.

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