Archive for August 2008

How to Handle Angry, Frustrated or Upset Clients

August 21, 2008

This sounds really simple.

It is simple.

At a glance everyone knows that when someone is angry, whether they are a client, co-worker, your boss, or your mom the way to handle it is with patience, by being receptive, appreciative and by being empathic to their needs. The hard part (I think) is finding a way to turn the situation into a positive one (and trust me, every situation can be turned into a positive or beneficial one).

So lets go over the ‘Steps’ for how to handle these kinds of potentially dangerous situations and provide some advice for how to turn it into an advantage.


    Let the other person know you want to hear about it. Do not use any body language or say anything that could be interpreted as “I don’t want to hear it”, or “I don’t have time for this.”

    You would not believe how many people I see who pride themselves on their conflict and client management skills who immediately cross their arms (maybe subconsciously) when someone begins ranting about some issue. Your instinctual reaction is going to be to become defensive, protective, or try to avoid it. Crush this feeling and instead EMBRACE the issue.You  want them to immediately feel that they have a valid point and that you are there to help them. First appearances and reactions are often the cause for the most conflicts because even if you embrace the issue after, they will remember it took THEM to convince you that they were right.


    But what if the client or staff member is wrong? Don’t worry about it, if you know they are wrong you can convince them of it without ever taking an opposing stance. Phrases like “I can understand your frustration with that”, “Absolutely you have every right to be frustrated.”, “I would be frustrated if that happened to me…” etc all build on you agreeing with them. You cannot win an argument so never let it become one.


    So now let’s say that now that you FULLY understand their issue (if you don’t then you should not try to convince them or resolve it) and you want to turn it into something positive.

    At this point the advantage is that you have created NO negative effects from this conversation. The best way to convince a person they are mistaken is to get them to convince themselves. The way I like to do this is simply to point out new ideas that they might not have thought of, but to do it modestly.Be confident. If it is a real issue make sure they feel like you not only understand it, but will also ensure that everything that can be done about the issue will be done. “We will do everything we can” may seem like a good phrase but most people (especially if they are interacting with you most) would prefer to hear “I will put all my attention on this immediately and make sure that we do everything we can to resolve this issue as soon as possible.” It’s exact, it’s confident and it provides PERSONAL assurance that not only do you understand the issue but that it’s IMPORTANT. After all, they would not have brought it up unless they thought it was important right?

  4. GIVE THEM AN ESCAPE ROUTE (if you convinced them they made a mistake) AND COMPLIMENT THEM

    What’s important here is that as soon as the person realizes they are mistaken they will want to escape the conversation, or excuse their response. That’s why it’s important to give them escape routes with your words. “I wonder if we offer a solution like that… Let me check… Oh gosh, we sure do, what a silly place to keep that information, I could not even find it and I work here… I will make sure to talk to communications about this…” is an example of a phrasing that excuses them while providing value to the ‘complaint’ or issue so they don’t feel like they wasted their time.

    You can even do it so that it helps make them feel more appreciated. Phrases like “It’s people like you who help our business”, “You’ve really put a lot of thought and effort into explaining this, and I want you to know I really appreciate it.”, “This is great, now we can make sure we don’t run into issues like this in the future all because of the effort and time you have put in to help us resolve it…” etc etc


    If you followed the above steps there is absolutely no reason to ever avoid speaking about the time they were upset or try to convince them later that it was less important. Instead just make sure when it is brought up (because they won’t forget) that you talk about the good things, like how fast you responded, how you understand and emphasize with their issue previously and how you (or the resolver) personally dealt with it and put large amounts of effort into making sure the client received the best service possible.

Happiness is bliss, and everyone wants to be happy,
Richard Harbridge