How to Deal with an Angry Customer

We’ve all had one. And in some situations, if not many, we aren’t the source of their anger. It’s frustrating. We can feel even more powerless when it seems obvious what needs to be done to assuage their angry feelings, but we don’t seem to have the authority to do it.

How to deal with an angry customer in that situation? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. First, use your empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what might make you feel better.
  2. Ask yourself, is their concern legitimate?
  3. Next, think about the people who do have the authority to do something, and get creative. What might you do or say that will get them to open their minds?
  4. Apologize to the angry customer. Even if you feel like it isn’t your fault. Acknowledge that they have a right to their anger.
  5. Take responsibility. Let them know you will do everything you can to assist.
  6. Set boundaries. State clearly that you are going to be respectful during your conversation, and you are sure they will do likewise (even if you’re not so sure).
  7. Commit to listening. No matter how angry the customer seems in their delivery, hear their words.
  8. Answer customer anger with questions. Find out more. Why is that? And then what happened? What was the impact on you? How can you help?
  9. Do or say something that is within your power, that will move the situation forward, even if it is just a little.
  10. Keep working to change the policy that prevents you from solving the problem.

Lastly, remind yourself of this: not every problem can be solved today. Solutions will reveal themselves in their own good time. And as long as you have done everything in your power to make it better, be satisfied that you made the effort.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them engage their customers (even angry customers), and to see everything they need to know to make better decisions and grow their careers or their businesses. You can also find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. And weekly, we share some more insights in our News you Can Use. Get it Below.

It’s not about me, it’s about us. Using empathy to create abundance.

According to psychology there are three types of Empathy; Cognitive, Emotional and Compassionate. My brother, the PhD Psychologist, could explain this better than I can, but here goes…

Cognitive is about perspective, knowing what another person is feeling or thinking.  It lacks the emotional component of the other two types and so is easier for us rational humans to understand and use. Emotional empathy goes a layer deeper and is that sense you have about feeling someone’s pain or suffering. It’s the feeling you get when you see the advertising for starving children or displaced persons, then you go on with your normal activities.

The final layer is Compassionate empathy, where we not only feel the pain, but are compelled to act upon it. Mother Teresa is a model we could use to demonstrate the extreme of compassionate empathy.
Look around you these days and what you see is a whole lot of self-interest, a zero-sum attitude, in order for me to win you must lose. Empathy is the tool you can use to escape this destructive cycle and create a space for abundance.

So, in business, which of these empathy models do we want to employ? To steal a phrase from “A League of Their Own” and mangle it: “There’s no crying in business”.

When preparing for a meeting or negotiation, employing Cognitive Empathy will allow you to explore the thoughts, constraints and motivations of the other person. Ask yourself and your team questions such as:

  • What constitutes success from the customer’s perspective?
  • Who do they need to influence to get a decision made?
  • How can you empower them in a way that creates value for them with little or no cost to you?

This is a different way of thinking, so you may need some help along the way.  At PANOPTIKA we have the experience and the frameworks to help you and your team develop these skills and create more wins.

We feel for you!

I’m Steve Willson and I’m one of the partners in PANOPTIKA. We help clients to see everything and make better decisions. ​You can also connect with us on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and on Fridays we share news you can use with our community.

The two best gifts to give your customer this holiday season…



…or any season! This post was updated in February 2020.

As the holiday season approaches, companies (and especially your sales team) start thinking of ways to thank, or give back, to your best customers. You can send them cards. If their corporate responsibility code allows it (and yours does), you can send them tokens of your appreciation. Some companies send sales incentives, wrapped as “gifts” and tied with a bow. (We’re looking at you, Black Friday). 

​Here’s are a couple of gifts you can give to customers and prospects, all year long: ​active listening​ and ​empathetic engagement​. How can you do that?

​Visit them at their workplace, and ask them what problems they’re trying to solve, and how they’re trying to solve them now. Not what problems they’re trying to solve with the tool you have on offer, but simply an opportunity for you to walk a mile in their shoes. Save the solutions for later.

​Ask them questions in a way that’s easy for them – let them answer in a way that’s comfortable, conversational, and that allows them to say, “that isn’t even the right question!”

​Make it easy for them to contact you – however they want. Let them call, write, email, engage through social media, or even send a carrier pigeon (ok, maybe not that). When they do, respond, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, or if your answer must be, “we’re sorry, but that’s not a problem we’re able to solve”. (Bonus points if you can point them to someone who can).

​If your team needs help asking hard questions, needs training on how to choose the best research approach to solve their problem, or wants a facilitator to help bring it all together, we do those things. But for today, we’ll just wait patiently and ask, what’s up with you, and what problems are you trying to solve these days?

I’m Megann Willson, and with my partner, Steve Willson, we’re PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to find, understand, and engage with their customers. And we’d be happy to help you. You can find us on social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Or you can get news delivered right to your inbox, every Friday…just subscribe with the link below. Got a question and not sure if we can help? Give us a call. You can find all the ways to contact us right here on the website.