OEC Blog

How to handle an angry customer

How to handle an angry customer

Not every customer experiences the ideal transaction. Mistakes happen, orders are wrong, shipments are delayed and so on. It’s important to understand how to handle and overcome these tough situations. It’s easier for one angry customer to have far more impact on your department’s reputation than happy customers ever can.

Here are some tips that can help resolve some of these negative situations.

First, compose yourself and don’t get emotional

It’s a natural reaction to take a defensive stance in a confrontational situation. Just like you can’t fight fire with fire, it’s a dire mistake to become defensive with an angry customer; it will only escalate the issue. Instead:

  • Listen to the customer’s problem and remain calm.
  • Don’t take what is being said personally.
  • Take in what the angry customer is saying and be genuine in your initial response. Be sure to speak in a soft tone, too, because raising your voice can be perceived as aggressive or defensive.  
  • Start by asking questions and gather all information that you need so you’re able to trace back to the root of the problem.
Put yourself in your customer's shoes

In order to completely understand why the customer is upset, put yourself in the position your customer is currently in. If what happened to the customer actually happened to you, you may have the same reaction they’re having.

Allowing yourself to get a better perspective on the situation will help you make better decisions when coming to a resolution. Make the angry customer’s issue a priority and show them you understand why they are upset. Be sure to apologize for the mistake and begin working on a solution promptly. It’s amazing how far a simple apology can go.

In fact, 37% of customers are satisfied with service recovery when they are offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit). But when the business adds an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubles to 74%.¹

Most importantly - find a solution that works

People respect when others admit their mistakes, even if it wasn’t your fault or was out of your control. As a parts manager, you will sometimes need to take the fall for your staff, so own the issue at hand and don’t make excuses! It will only make matters worse if you don’t take ownership.

Be sure to agree on a solution with the customer instead of dictating one

Thoroughly explain how and when the solution will be implemented, and be detailed on what will be done to rectify the problem. Show the customer you are determined to make things right, and again, take action as soon as possible.

Reiterate the conversation

This may seem almost silly, but it’s important. Reintegrating the conversation will confirm the customer understands your plan of action as well as show the customer you understand what needs to be done to make things right.

Be sure to document the conversation’s key points for two reasons. First, so you can go back and reference what was agreed upon, and second, to help improve processes for the future, paving the way for future situations to go more smoothly.

Follow up with the customer and communicate well

In order to keep the customer and avoid further problems, be sure to proactively communicate with the customer, updating them on the solution’s progress if needed. People appreciate good communication and will respect that you are actively working toward a resolution.

If the problem can easily be resolved, be sure to follow up with a courtesy email or call to see how everything is going with that customer. This small action can have a huge impact and potentially build a strong, long-lasting relationship with the customer.

Handling problematic situations correctly can often lead to stronger relationships with customers compared to nothing happening at all. By turning a negative experience into a positive one, customers will respect your parts department and trust you can handle a problem if one were to arise.

Great customer service is vital in our business. It greatly affects your reputation and potential referrals from your current customer base. Most buyers understand that mistakes can be made and will easily forgive them if a prompt and agreeable solution is made.


¹Len Markidan. 15 Surprising Customer Service Statistics That Will Change The Way You Do Support. 2015.