Five Tips for Dealing with Angry Customers

Last Updated May 25, 2010 6:36 AM EDT

Do you dread dealing with flustered customers?

In a post on TheNextWeb, internet entrepreneur Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten says that businesses should go the extra mile to embrace their customers -- even if they seem to spend most of their time driving you crazy.

You might have some animosity towards customers from time to time, but it's worth remembering that you're often a customer yourself.

Here are some of van Zanten's observations:

  1. Appease the angry customer
  2. Accepted wisdom, notes van Zanten, isL "You shouldn't feed the trolls. I say: feed them, nurture them, love them and they will turn into your biggest fans". You might be reading an angry email, but that's probably been written in a feverish state -- it's more likely you're dealing with a reasonable person having a bad moment than an uncouth maniac.

    Try stepping back from the situation and responding to these people in a calm manner. If you can solve the problem that has so incensed them, they might just end up as one of your most loyal customers.

  3. Go the extra mile
  4. Sometimes it's worth devoting a little extra time to helping customers sort out problems that are outside of your remit. That doesn't mean you should mow their lawn if they're phoning up to complain about their broadband, but it wouldn't hurt to offer advice around the enquiry -- maybe optimising their network and pointing out any potential errors with their computer.

    Use your knowledge and experience to offer additional help to customers and you may save yourself an angry call later.

  5. Put people on the phone
  6. Few things are more aggravating than being held up by an automated queue system for 20 minutes before you get to speak to a person. These might be 'professional' call centres, but van Zanten highlights eBay's personal support policy as worth emulating.

    "Every person who works at eBay has to answer the helpdesk phone lines at least one day a month. Even the CEO does it. Can you imagine calling eBay and getting personal help from their CEO? I'll bet you that you will tell all your friends about it."

  7. Don't let the minority rule
  8. It's important not to make broad assumptions about customers based on the opinions of the most vocal. Just because one or two customers express an opinion you think is stupid, it doesn't mean the rest of your customers don't understand your service or product.

    Even more important, don't take out your frustrations towards a couple of 'squeaky wheels' on the innocent majority.

  9. Your caller may be a journalist undercover
  10. Ok, it's unlikely, but it's a useful way of remembering to keep your cool. You never know where your comments are going to end up, whether they're relayed to hundreds of potential customers or plastered over a testimonials website.

    This is van Zanten's take: "Always imagine your emails ending up at the front page of the local newspaper... You are not just answering their questions but you are addressing the world. Would you tell the world to piss off? Then don't say it to any of your customers either, no matter how angry and unfair they treat you."

Irate customers have the potential to cause great offence, but it's always worth keeping your cool and treating them with respect.

It's easier said than done, but it has the potential to do great things for the reputation of your business.

Have you ever lost your temper with a customer? Or been on the receiving end of an enraged customer service rep?