7 essential tips for managing unhappy customers

A happy customer talks about your brand to 3 people on average, while an angry customer will talk to 10 people. Whether customer dissatisfaction is linked to your products or services (quality, price) or the customer journey (purchasing process, order tracking, delivery, customer service), angry customers require special attention. Managing these customers is surely a difficult task, but it has become a true tool for value creation and an important stake for your customer retention rate and brand image. Let’s take a look at the best practices for managing angry customers.

Reduce wait time

90% of customers believe it is « important » or « very important » to obtain an immediate answer for a customer service problem*. For a customer who is already upset, nothing is more frustrating than having to wait a long time before being able to speak with an agent. Reducing wait time is therefore an essential challenge for your company and the customer experience. Setting up an IVR (interactive voice response) coupled with an ACD (automatic call distribution) allows your business to organize operations and route your customers toward the most qualified available agent. It is also possible to offer your customers callback options if they do not want to stay on the line waiting for an agent to become available. Once a customer is connected to an agent, make sure not to make him wait during the conversation (such as looking up additional information during this time) in order to not rekindle or increase his original frustration.

*Hubspot study

Listen closely to customers

Listening is considered a key element of customer service. When an agent must handle the complaint of an angry customer, he should take the time to listen to the customer actively (by asking questions to obtain more information and phrasing these inquiries differently if necessary) or passively (by being attentive to everything the customer explains). Not interrupting the customer, letting him express his anger, and taking the time to build an individualized and personalized relationship with him are among the many techniques which allow your agents to start listening well and engage in conversation with customers. Conversation recording could prove strategic for cases of very angry customers but also for the training and skill-building of your agents.

Understand complaints

To defuse customer dissatisfaction quickly and efficiently, an agent must be methodical in his management of the problem and of the reason for the customer’s anger. Not making a customer repeat himself is the rule of thumb, especially considering how this is one of the biggest customer frustrations. Verifying the agent’s understanding of the subject is also a key step for managing an unhappy customer. But above all, it’s customer knowledge and access to customer journey data that allow agents to understand complaints and help them best respond to situations.

Show empathy

At every stage of customer service, your agents represent your brand image. The empathy they show angry customers is a decisive factor. This sentiment can be defined as an ability to identify, understand, accept, and sometimes share emotions with the other speaker. The ability of your agents to put themselves in the shoes of your angry customers shows their attention and understanding and also plays an important role in reconciling these customers with your brand. Empathy is therefore essential to building a trusting relationship with your customers. A Kantar study further reveals that 70% of customers want brands to have a reassuring tone in difficult situations.

Be sincere and honest

Your agents must remain professional in each situation and not take any potential aggression from angry customers personally. Even if he is very upset, a customer will always regain his calm more quickly if he feels that he is speaking with someone honest and sincere. This transparency is proof of professionalism. Your agents should not make false promises. If a customer contacts your business regarding a delivery delay, the right response is to understand the customer’s frustration sincerely while explaining honestly that the items ordered are out of stock rather than promising the customer a quick delivery which will inevitably bring about a new complaint.

Resolve the problem

Making it up to an angry customer is not always easy, as your agents may not have the expected response or the ability to resolve a problem completely. Offering your customers an arrangement, a realistic compromise, or an alternative (for example, a discount or an exchange) to resolve at least part of the problem allows an angry customer to take note of your efforts and open up to dialogue once again. Access to customer history is more important as it can provide a 360° view of the customer and his interactions with your business and your brand. This customer knowledge is what your agents will rely on to find solutions for the problems of your angry customers.

Obtain feedback

It is also important to follow up with the customer in the short term. Managing customer complaints is a perfect opportunity to improve your brand. Your agents can also take advantage of each interaction to obtain feedback from your customers regarding the way the agent responded to his request—through post-interaction satisfaction surveys, for example. An angry customer is not necessary a lost one: be sure to give his concerns the attention he expects and show him your company’s efforts to solve his problem. Your unhappy customers can shift from being detractors to promoters thanks to the proper management of their complaints which will then increase your NPS (Net Promoter Score).


Quality customer service is an undisputed asset for your business and your brand. To make it truly optimal, invest in the right tools and favor a contact center solution that allows your agents to better manage unhappy customers: a single management interface which consolidates all customer data and interaction history across all channels, real-time supervision, quality management tools to develop agent skills, and post-interaction satisfaction surveys. The challenge to tackle? Improving your customers’ experiences and nurturing a trusting relationship during every interaction.

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