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How to Communicate with an Angry Customer

Updated on February 24, 2010

I've had items thrown at me. I've been cussed at. I've been called stupid, and told that I don't know anything. I have been called unhelpful, when I've done everything I can do to help someone. I don't take it personally, it all comes with the territory working in Customer Service.

When someone calls in, or visits Customer Service, it's hardly ever just to say "you're doing a good job." The main reason people contact Customer Service is because there is a problem. At this point the Customer is emotionally involved because they've spent money on a product, or because of a policy they are going to have to pay a fee. With the slow economic times, money becomes very personal to people, and when things go wrong tempers flare.

I worked in Customer Service for the Government for over five years. This was a challenging area to work in Customer Service. I communicated daily with people in person and over the phone about parking tickets, and water bills. There are people who have a poor opinion of the Government anyway, and once water bills go up, or if they receive a parking ticket, they are the unhappiest of all the unhappy people. I'll share the strategies I've learned in order to keep my sanity while communicating with angry customers. These strategies can also strengthen the relationship between the organization and the customer.


Listen. It sounds so simple. Here are three situations when listening is not simple:

  1. The customer is raising their voice while talking. It's hard to stay quiet and listen effectively when you are getting yelled at.
  2. The customer is talking about a situation you're familiar with and you know you can calm them down quickly. You have the answer and you know the customer is going to be happy with the answer. It's human instinct to want to interrupt the upset person and tell them the good news. It may be human instinct but it's not recommended.
  3. The customer is talking about a  situation you're familiar with and you know you don't have a solution. You know that you are not able to help the customer. You have a script to say, or maybe another point of reference. You don't want to listen to the customer because you know you're not going to provide a resolution.

Okay, listening isn't simple. Are you wondering why listening is important?

Listening is important because the customer is upset and they want to feel validated. That's right. Even if they are irrational in their communication method, deep down that person wants to feel validated. Have you ever been upset about something and vented to a friend about it? Afterwards you felt better didn't you? Venting helps you feel heard and that you have a valid reason to be upset, even if later you realize it's not a valid reason. The customer really wants to vent. If you interrupt them, they feel attacked. You're not listening, and validating their opinion. Even if you give them the answer they are looking for, they ultimately still feel unheard.




Without being demeaning, paraphrase what you heard the customer say. This lets them know that you were listening and that you are trying to understand.

Sometimes while you are paraphrasing, and working on communicating with the customer they aren't listening. Don't be afraid to sit quietly for a moment and pause to remain calm. Staying calm, and in a pleasant voice let the customer know that you want this to be resolved, and you'd appreciate if they'd listen to you, as you've listened to them. Let them know you want to make sure you've got the correct information so that this can be resolved.

Usually this will get the attention of the customer and they will listen to you, and give you feedback after you're done paraphrasing.


A lot of times when you receive the feedback from the customer you'll find that they don't understand something. Rather then have the attitude "stupid customer doesn't get it", use this as an opportunity to teach.

Give the customer information, and resources that can help them with the current problem, and in the future. Educating a customer can go along way, and help stop the Chronic Customer Service Caller.


I've talked to customers who have been dealing with the same issue for months. These customers are understandably upset because they can't ever find a resolution. If you notice that a customer has been contacting the company numerous times, don't automatically see this person as a pain in the butt, work harder on finding a resolution.

Is there someone who needs to be aware of the problem, but isn't? Contact that person.

Is the customer waiting for an answer from a contact, whom isn't answering? Find out why.

Don't let a problem slip under the table because no one wants to find the answer. Difficult situations come up in Customer Service sometimes. It's easy to brush it off because we don't know an answer. Remember, Customer Service is the first point of contact between customers and organizations. If a new issue comes up and you don't know the answer, the organization may not even be aware of this issue. If you ignore it and don't pursue helping the customer further the organization may not ever be aware of the issue.

Care about the customer, and the organization and stop a problem before it becomes chronic.

Those strategies compliment each other while helping you effectively communicate with an angry customer. The main thing to remember is don't take it personally. If you get upset because the customer is shouting at you, or if you get defensive for the company, it will be difficult to get effective results.

There are going to be customers who still demand to speak with a supervisor, and are never satisfied. This will happen. Do the best you can using great Customer Service skills and let it go. This will help your sanity and stress level while working. Don't let an angry customer ruin your day, and be prepared to duck if they are throwing something at you. 


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    • profile image

      Prashant 5 years ago

      hi i am doing job has service advisor i have talk with n m=number of proples they are shouthing but i handle them very smothly but i need some extra tehhinque to handle them...

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I've been in both shoes before and I must say that being angry is not pleasant. Handling angry customers takes more skills than handling a simple complaint and concern. Unfortunately, not many customer service representatives know how to deal with the situation properly. in many cases they make it worse. Your tips will really help improve service.

    • jdomingo profile image

      jdomingo 7 years ago from Texas

      Excellent hub, very thorough. I think that most of us know first hand what it's like to deal with angry people and this is a great way to deal with them.

    • profile image

      consultjtr 7 years ago

      WOW. I could imagine the attitude/anger that people already had by the time you picked up your phone working that government job! Bless you! Great hub.

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 8 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      Thank You!

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great topic! Let's face it! Americans are spoiled & with that in mind have no idea the stress & hard work you are under with providing & catering service to meet their satisfaction. The best thing to always do is demonstrate yourself as professional & nice as possible & leave it at that...They will see that & start to feel stupid about themselves at some point if they have any type of concious. Keep up the good work!

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 8 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      Thanks! It is NEVER fun dealing with angry people, but it is rewarding when things actually get resolved. I've worked for the Government, and for a Cable Company. I think those are two organizations that people LOVE to hate. I haven't worked in fast food, but I can imagine hungry people aren't all happy!! =)

    • CuzzoShizzo profile image

      CuzzoShizzo 8 years ago from USA

      I have dealt with some pretty irate people in my time as a manager of a fast food restaurant and know first hand how hard it is to try to calm someone down who is acting irrationally. This is a great Hub with some great information!