How to Diffuse Customer Anger


Social media makes it a lot easier for customer complaints to be heard. A single complaint can grow into a roar if it’s shared on social media platforms. A negative post on Yelp, an angry status update on Facebook or an irate-sounding tweet can seriously hurt your business if you don’t take action promptly. Believe it or not, you can diffuse anger and actually turn a complainer into a loyal customer by following these steps.

  • Listen carefully. Listen fully to the complainer (either online or by phone) without interrupting, and try to find common points of frustration. You may indicate you’ve been in a similar situation – an action by itself often diffuses a situation.
  • Keep a positive attitude. When talking to the customer, try to view it as a learning opportunity and avoid a shouting match. Research shows that a calm attitude can be contagious.
  • Do apologize, but that’s not all. Tell the customer what you will do to rectify the situation. Research shows that customers usually want someone reprimanded. What you can do is promise to speak to relevant staff and take corrective action so the problem is avoided in the future. At that point, a customer may start to feel a real bond with you.

  • Publicly comment back to the person if the complaint is on the Internet. Thank the person and say you’re sorry. Indicate the complaint is not representative of your brand. You may even want to offer a discount or coupon. If you don’t get a response, post another comment saying you are still concerned. The key is to stay public with your apology, so visitors will understand you’re trying to resolve the situation.

  • Fix the problem if possible, and ask the customer to give you another chance. Send him or her a discount or coupon, then follow up later to make sure it was received.

If the customer was at fault, don’t blame him or her, or apologize either. Also, if you simply cannot remedy the problem, say so.  This is the best you can do, but you’ll try to find ways to avoid the problem in the future.

At first blush, a negative comment expressed publicly may seem like a nightmare, but by handling the situation with honesty, grace and calmness, you can actually enhance your brand’s reputation.

Chris Ruys is passionate about helping organizations increase their visibility and build their credibility to reach their business goals and objectives. The firm, Chris Ruys Communications, does this through the development and implementation of communications strategies that include traditional and social media marketing channels. We operate in collaboration with a network of graphic designers, media & speaker training professionals, professional photographers, videographers and other specialists, as needed. Specialties: Strategic communications, written materials, media relations, social media strategies, special events.

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