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If you’ve never been an angry customer, then the person next to you has. That means one out of two people – 56 percent – has gotten angry about a product or service… and if your business is the one they’re upset about, you could lose much more than a customer.
As a business owner, the big question on your mind is probably, “What makes a customer angry, and how can I deal with them to fix the problem?” You can have policies and procedures for handling angry customers, but that’s just a temporary fix. You want more than that.
It’s like trapping a hungry lion in a cage and throwing meat at it every time it roars. No. What I’m going to show you winds back the clock… before the customer walks into your store, or before you get on the phone with them. We’re going back to when your lion was a purring cub. Let’s prevent the problem before it begins.
First, we’ll take a deep dive into your customer’s mind to get a better understanding of how they think, what they want, and what they desire. Now is that a little bit intrusive? Maybe. But when you offer the service they are looking for, they will thank you for it.
The Psychology Of An Angry Customer
What Makes People Say, GRRRR!
Let’s start with the surprising facts about anger and what it means for your as a business owner with an angry customer on the phone or in your store.
First, anger is not destructive. It’s actually healthy. Researchers now say it helps optimism, brainstorming, and problem solving. It’s the opposite of fear and anxiety. What does that mean? It means anger stops us from running from our fear, and gets the other person to do what we want.
Psychologists now believe anger is rewarding. You might be thinking, that doesn’t make sense!
But researchers found “levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop, suggesting that anger helps people calm down and get ready to address a problem—not run from it.”
What does that mean for you as a business owner? Bear with me while we take a detour into some science. In plain English, new research is saying that anger triggers the part of the brain that’s associated with positive, pleasurable behaviors.
The Benefit of Anger
Researchers found “Brain imaging and electrical studies of the brain consistently show that the left frontal lobe is crucial to establishing approach behaviors that push us to pursue desired goals and rewards in rational, logical, systematic, and ordered ways, and that activation of the right frontal cortex is tied to the more negative, withdrawal motivational system, marked by inhibition, timidity, and avoidance of punishment and threat.
“Brain scans show that anger significantly activates the left anterior cortex, associated with positive approach behaviors.”
So, “If the angry person is successful, it not only produces benefits (“I win!”), but also pleasure—enough to reinforce deploying anger this way repeatedly.” They’re feeling up for the challenge and they don’t want anyone to put them down or make them feel bad when they’re in this “angry” state.
Now, their feeling of “I win!” happiness isn’t your feeling of happiness. You have a customer who is asking for a refund/ deciding not to buy from you/ threatening to go to your competitor.
Let’s hit the PAUSE button on your angry customer for a moment. You understand what gives them the courage to be angry. Next, let’s look at what you can do to resolve the situation, and what you can say to win them over before the situation escalates.
One strategy is to understand the type of customer you are dealing with.
4 Types Of Customers And How To Handle Them
Imagine this scenario. A customer comes into your store, raging about how terrible your service is, and how the discount you gave wasn’t as low as the price your competitor offers. Then they say the dreaded words. I want a refund.
Could you have prevented this moment from happening? You could.
Let’s go back to the day you opened up your store and announced to the world that you’re ready for your first customer. What type of ideal customer would you like to attract?
There are four types of customers that you could attract to your business.
Priced based customers
This type of customer is attracted to deals and discounts. They love to chase a good bargain. If you tell them to buy now, and they’ll get three bonuses for an added value of $300, they’ll buy even if they don’t need to because they get $300 in bonuses.
Now, if you started your relationship with this customer by saying you can give them the discount they want, you’ll get a price-based customer.
You’ve said the word that attracts them like honey. They’ll become an angry customer if the discount they got wasn’t low enough or if they feel they didn’t get a great bargain.
Starting your relationship with your customer by showing them the value you provide and not giving them a discount can prevent this situation.
Difficult customers enjoy giving you a hard time no matter what you do. They love to pick a fight with you. They will be the angry customer that won’t be satisfied with your product or service no matter how perfect it is. Avoid doing business with this type of customer.
When a sophisticated customer walks into your store, they’ve already decided what they want to buy. They’ve done their research on your company and your product or service by searching the internet and talking to people they know.
If you try to push features and benefits on them, or use aggressive sales tactics, they’ll get upset and refuse to buy. Don’t be pushy. Answer any questions they may have and tell them about flaws they should know about, such as your product will not work with certain software.
For these customers, money is no object. They buy for emotional reasons, such as how the product makes them feel. If a $300 umbrella makes them happy, they will buy it. They want the best, and they want what’s convenient. Hermes is all about creating an emotional shopping experience for the affluent.
Convenience is important to them, so inconvenience is what will upset or anger these types of buyers. Don’t sell them by asking them to wait while you find the best deals or ask them to fight rush hour traffic to do a clothes fitting. Time is valuable to them.
Avoid these situations by pre-selecting items for the customer before they arrive at the store, or better yet, select what the customer prefers and deliver it to their residence to save them time.
Those are some tips on how to deal with the four types of customers. Understanding what attracts them to buy can prevent some ugly situations.
Here’s a summary of some telltale signs that you could have a future customer or client that will bring you trouble. Avoid these situations and you’ll reduce your chances of facing an angry customer.
Warning Signs of a Customer or Client From Hell
- No respect for your time. They are unreasonably late for meetings, or give you only 5 minutes of their time for an important meeting. They call you when they want to and expect an answer right away.
- Lack of respect for your expertise. They are always checking up on your work or they are control freaks telling you how to do your job. They are always disappointed when you send your work to them and they want you to change things because they are never satisfied. But they can never give you constructive feedback.
- Don’t want to sign a contract or nitpick every line in the contract. They spend a lot of time focusing on what’s not important and they just want to fight and argue with you all the time.
- Desire cheapest provider of services. Before talking about what you do, they are already asking for a discount or a deal. As a client, they want extra work without extra compensation. If you don’t give a discount, they threaten to walk away.
- Unrealistic expectations about deadlines and want things to be done in a rush. Something that takes months for a result they want done in one month. That sets you up for failure.
Watch this video about clients from hell.
Now remember the customer’s anger that you put on PAUSE? Anger is what allows a customer to challenge you to get their needs answered. You might have prevented that angry moment by identifying the type of customer they are and understanding their needs. You might have avoided working with a customer from hell.
But despite your best efforts to find ideal customers, you still find yourself dealing with an angry customer and no time machine could have prevented this moment. What do you do?
Dealing With Customer Anger
In a perfect world, all interactions with customers would be flawless but that’s not always possible. Hundreds of things could go wrong on any given day. Your website could go down unexpectedly and customers cannot finish an online payment.
Your customer could be having a problem with your product. It’s not working the way they thought it should, or they are not getting the results they want.
Maybe the customer complained to support but the response time is longer than they expected or they have preconceived expectations about the level of support they expect.
Their anger may have nothing to do with you… they’re having personal or professional problems, such as a divorce or job loss and an issue with your product used up the last of their remaining patience.
What’s important to remember is that most customers – around 75 percent – just want an apology – but most fail to get one. Companies fear lawsuits if their customer service admits liability. For example, if a customer service agent says, “We meant to fix that” if there was a safety issue.
Making a customer angry can be very costly when you look at these customer service statistics.
- Consumers tell twice as many people about poor experiences than positive ones. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
- Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time. (Lee Resources)
- A typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers, with 96% not voicing out their complaints, and 91% never coming back. (“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)
What To Say To An Angry Customer
“Hi Scott, this is Steve,” said the voice from the other end of the phone.
“Steve Jobs?” asked the customer.
“Yeah,” Jobs said. “I just wanted to apologize for your incredibly long wait. It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just one of those things.”
Not every unhappy customer will get a call from the CEO of a company. But there are strategies you can use to calm the anger of a customer who is calling customer service.
Be a good listener. Avoid saying “I understand.” You may think it makes you sound empathetic but it will frustrate them. Listen when they explain the problem and take notes during the phone call.
If you repeat back what they say in their own words, they will feel like you’ve heard them because you’re speaking in their language. Check that you understand what is going on. Don’t promise a solution, but listen and ask questions about what they need.
Customer: “I’m frustrated because we have a limited budget and you’re unwilling to offer us a discount.”
Customer Success Manager: “So, what I’m hearing is that our pricing is a barrier for your business. Your budget is tight, and I’m not offering a discount that meets your needs. Is that correct?”
Ask open ended questions. Open ended questions give you more information than closed questions. Closed questions ask for yes/no answers. For example, “Have you called customer service about this before?” is a close ended question.
Customer service: “How can I help you feel comfortable enough to move forward?”
Get as much information as possible. Don’t assume what the customer should already know, such as reading a policy. Ask the customer to tell you about what happened in their own words and don’t interrupt them when they speak. If they say something important, take notes so you don’t forget when it’s your chance to speak again.
Customer service: “Can you give me a brief summary of the issue you’re having?”
Take ownership of the situation and explain what you will do to resolve the customer’s issue.
Customer service: “I’ll send those notes in a follow-up email along with my contact information. Let me know if I missed anything, and please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any other issues.”
Another option is to give the customer some choices and ask which one they prefer.
Customer service: “I have a few ways we can make this better for you. Let’s go through some options together, and you can tell me what you think.”
Set the Tone
Remember. You set the tone for the interaction, so no matter how angry the customer becomes, don’t take the situation personally. The closers on my sales team are taught to stay unattached to the sales call because the prospect or customer is the one with the problem and it’s our goal to solve their problem as best we can.
Maybe the customer is having a bad day and they become angry. My closers stay calm and in control and will call out the prospect on their attitude. Depending on the rapport they have with the prospect, and the personality of the prospect, they may even ask, “Are you always this rude?”
The expected answer is “No.” We hope that our prospect is normally a calm and peaceful person and they were just having an explosive moment. If the prospect is a Difficult Customer looking for a verbal battle, we don’t want to do business with them anyway.
But if they say, “No, I’m not usually this angry, but…” Ask questions, and find out what’s really going on. Did you hit a sensitive spot when you were asking questions to get to the bottom of what was making them angry?
When you have an angry customer, stay calm and in control. Ask questions to get information and find out what’s really going on. If they are angry, look for the real cause. Maybe they are upset that the product is not working. But the real reason they are angry is they’ve bought a product like this before, and it didn’t work either.
When you find the source of the problem, suggest a solution and follow up with the customer.
An angry customer can damage your business. People will avoid businesses with negative reviews, and customers with a negative experience aren’t likely to return.
Understanding the type of customer you want to attract for your business is one way to avoid angry customers. For example, don’t offer discounts if you want to work with clients that pay premium prices. Look for warning signs that a customer will be a difficult customer.
The way you deal with an angry customer will affect the outcome. Listen to what your customer says is the problem and ask open-ended questions. Watch the tone you use and offer a solution and follow up with the solution.
Want to get your hands on a closing script that will get you more sales and close more deals? Find out why old sales techniques aren’t working and new techniques that are giving businesses the competitive advantage.