It’s never fun dealing with an angry customer. But you can make the best out of the situation by using the 5 A’s, which can flip the encounter into a positive.
If you haven’t dealt with an angry customer, chances are you haven’t been in business very long. Or maybe ever. Providing customers with goods or services requires navigating through a minefield of failure points: unmet expectations, manufacturing defects, shipping damages, etc. Knowing how to avoid these is critical, but knowing how to recover from them when one inevitably “goes off” can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your brand and retaining customers.
Dealing with a customer who comes into a conversation charged with negative emotion can be an unsettling experience. If you go into that conversation unprepared, you might find yourself caught off guard, backpedaling, and reacting in ways that are ineffective or maybe even make the problem worse.
It is important to keep in mind that if a customer is angry, the reality of your situation is that you are dealing with 2 problems: the emotional problem (their anger), and the situational problem (issue that caused their anger). Breaking these up and addressing them separately can be a highly effective way to make sure the customer leaves the conversation feeling fully supported. We recommend first addressing their emotion so you can calm the customer and earn their cooperation to address the situation. To do this, we have put together a simple 5 step formula you can use in nearly any conversation with an angry customer.
The 5 A’s: Apologize, Acknowledge, Appreciate, Act, Audit
Apologize to the customer:
If the customer is calling and they are upset, the first thing you should do is apologize. This doesn’t mean you are taking the blame personally or acknowledging that the company, brand or product is at fault. The goal of your apology is to communicate sympathy for the customer who is dealing with a negative experience, regardless of who or what is the cause. After all, you do feel bad that they are having trouble.
Acknowledge their experience:
The primary goal when supporting a customer is to resolve their issue, but acknowledging the difficulty of their experience can be a powerful way to put the customer at ease. Doing this allows the customer to feel like the struggles they have experienced are legitimate and that someone with the power to help them understands where they are coming from.
Appreciate the customer’s feedback:
However difficult it may seem to deal with an angry customer, it is much better than the alternative. Customers who have bad experiences and don’t connect with your business prevent your company from collecting valuable feedback. Or worse, they publish their experience online with complaints rather than trying to work directly with you to find a solution. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant tone, word choice or negative emotion that a customer may bring to the conversation, be sure to express appreciation that they decided to contact you directly and let you know about the problem they were experiencing. For every customer that calls you with a problem, you can bet there are other customers out there who likely experienced the same issue and are either dealing with it privately (or maybe even publicly).
Act on the information:
During the initial conversation, one of the final things you should do is make sure the customer knows they are being taken care of as promptly as possible. You should communicate this in ways that demonstrate you are being proactive and have full control of the situation so the customer is able to leave the conversation feeling confident about the resolution. If you are unable to reach a resolution during the first conversation, make sure the customer knows what steps you are taking to tend to their issue and when they can expect a solution.
Audit the situation:
This is also known as following up. After the initial conversation, reach back out to the customer and make sure everything has been resolved. See if there is anything else you can help them with. If everything has turned out well and your company uses a form of customer support feedback, this would be the time to administer that so they can rate their experience. Giving your customer another opportunity to make their voice heard will leave them with a positive impression of your company and thus complete the process of de-escalating their anger. Now, you’ve taken an upset customer and transformed them into a happy customer that is far more likely to result in repeat business.
Here is a short example of how the 5 A’s might sound when speaking with a customer:
Apologize “I am sorry to hear that your shipment has not arrived on time, Mr. Johnson.” Acknowledge “I understand this is very frustrating. I feel the same way when my packages don’t arrive when they are supposed to.” Appreciate “Thank you for your patience and for letting us know about the issue.” Act “I have let the warehouse know about the problem. We are looking into the shipment tracking details to find out where your product got hung up. If it’s due to arrive soon, we’ll let you know. Otherwise, we will expedite another shipment to you. Either way, it should arrive no later than Wednesday the 14th.” Audit “Hello Mr. Johnson. I am just checking in with you again today to make sure that everything worked out alright.”
As you can probably tell, the first three A’s are steps to addresses the emotion, while the last two address the situation. Following this order and this strategy can be a great way to establish a connection with the customer, earn their cooperation and give them confidence that you have the situation under control. Try this out with your next angry customer and discover how it can be the difference that changes a potential brand basher into your next brand advocate.
When you are a call center like us, you can bet that we have dealt with a few angry callers along the way. Our experiences have led us to develop processes like using the 5 A’s to deal with upset customers and turn the tide of the call into a positive experience. We understand that dealing with angry customers isn’t the most fun part of your day, so consider partnering with us to handle your calls and we’ll use our expertise to take great care of your customers even if they begin the call upset. Put our skills to the test with a free trial!