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How to Deal with Angry Customers in Retail – Tips & Best Practices


“A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world.” – unknown

In the retail industry, customer experience and satisfaction are paramount. Unfortunately, even the most active businesses will encounter unhappy customers. As a result, retail staff needs to have the skills to handle such situations with poise, empathy, and efficiency. This blog offers guidance on how to do just that, including techniques for dealing with angry customers, tips for effective communication in high-emotion situations, and best practices for providing fair and practical solutions that benefit both the customer and the business.

The Top Three Reasons Why Customer Get Upset 

Poor Service Experiences

Past negative service experiences can cause customers to become angry, frustrated, and impatient. It could be a long wait time, being transferred to multiple departments, or a job not completed satisfactorily.

  • 58% of American consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service. (Microsoft)
  • 61% of customers say they would switch to a new brand after one bad experience. (Zendesk)

Customers often come to you with pent-up frustration; even one negative word or phrase can trigger their anger. To prevent this, listen to their concerns and resolve their issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Customer Experiences Wasted Time

Time is a valuable asset for most people, and customers are no exception. When consumers feel their time is not respected, they view it as a disservice and may become angry.

  • 33% are most frustrated by repeating themselves to multiple support reps. (HubSpot Research)
  • 33% of customers are most frustrated by having to wait on hold.

Identifying and removing communication barriers, such as complicated phone systems or long wait times, can help improve service and make customers feel valued. 

Personal Reasons and Anxiety

Customers often complain about their customer experience while experiencing personal issues that have nothing to do with your business—for example, problems with their employer, marriage, or health. To effectively deal with these unhappy customers, it is critical to demonstrate empathy and understanding toward their concerns, as anxiety can often be mistaken for anger.

By understanding the reasons behind customer frustration, you can take steps to prevent angry outbursts and create a positive experience for your customers.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

Tips for Dealing with Angry Customers

Demonstrating professionalism when emotions run-high shows that the business cares about its customers and is willing to work towards finding a solution to the issue at hand. In addition, it sets a positive example for other employees to follow and can help diffuse future tense situations. The following are five proven tips that help to lower tensions and address customer concerns: 

Stay Calm and Empathetic

When dealing with an angry customer, it is essential to remain calm and empathetic. Listen to their concerns actively and show understanding of their situation. Use a low tone of voice to help lower the tension and avoid escalating the situation. 

Apologize and Take Responsibility

Even if you or your company were not at fault, taking responsibility can go a long way toward defusing the situation. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and apologize for any inconveniences. 

Offer a Solution

Present a solution addressing the customer’s concern and exceeding their expectations. Propose options that are realistic, feasible, and can be implemented quickly. If necessary, involve the customer in finding a satisfactory solution. 

Follow Up and Follow Through

After a solution has been agreed upon, it is crucial to follow through on any promises made. Ensure that the solution is acted on promptly and that outcome satisfies customer concerns. This approach builds trust and demonstrates a commitment to customer experience. 

Learn and Improve

Dealing with angry customers can be a valuable learning experience. First, take the time to analyze the situation and identify any areas for improvement with products, services, or communication. Then, use the customer’s feedback to implement changes and continuously improve customer experience.

Professionalism is essential in handling irate customers. It diffuses volatile situations and safeguards the business’s reputation. Retail staff can display their competence and dedication to customer service by maintaining a calm and professional demeanor. This approach reassures unhappy customers and establishes long-term trust.

unhappy customers a solution

Why is it necessary to offer unhappy customers a solution?

Unhappy customers can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line. They can damage a business’s reputation, lead to lost revenue, and even cause customers to switch to competitors. Also, resolving a customer’s issue can increase loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Thus, the retailer’s goal should be to take all reasonable steps to ensure that angry customers leave the store satisfied.

  • 80% of consumers have reported feeling more emotionally connected to a brand when their customer service department successfully resolves their problem. (Source: Podium)

Below are five examples of solutions retailers can offer unhappy customers: 

Refund or Exchange: If the customer is unhappy with the product or service they received, offering a refund or exchange is a good solution. It shows that the retailer is willing to take responsibility for any product issues and wants to make things right. 

Compensation: In some cases, offering compensation such as a discount, gift or service, or loyalty points can be an effective solution. This shows that the retailer is sorry for any inconvenience caused and helps retain the customer’s loyalty and trust. 

Personalized Apology: Sometimes, a simple apology can go a long way in resolving a customer’s issue. However, offering a personalized apology, such as a phone call or email from a manager or executive, can make it more meaningful and show the customer that their concerns are being taken seriously. 

Training and Improvement: If the issue is due to a lack of training or an error in the retailer’s processes, offering to improve or retrain staff can be a great solution. This helps to prevent similar issues from happening in the future and shows the customer that the retailer is committed to improving their services.

  • 59% of customers say most businesses need to improve the training of their customer service agents. (Zendesk)

Escalation: If the frontline staff cannot resolve the issue, offering to escalate the problem to a higher level of management or customer service can be a solution. This ensures that the customer’s concerns are addressed by someone with more authority and experience in resolving complex issues.

Remember: reasonable and proportional solutions can turn an angry customer into a loyal customer and can even result in positive (online) reviews or recommendations to others.

  • 94% of American customers will recommend a company whose service they rate as “very good.” (Qualtrics XM Institute)

It also helps maintain a positive reputation for the business and can increase customer loyalty and retention.

“Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.”  — Scott Cook

Dealing with angry or unhappy customers can be a chance to strengthen your retail business. By taking the time to understand customer psychology and equipping yourself with the right tools, you can create positive outcomes for even the most challenging situations. Retail businesses can turn unhappy customers into loyal advocates with clear communication, empathy, and a commitment to fair solutions. Remember, customer satisfaction is the key to success in the retail industry, and by taking a thoughtful, proactive approach, you can transform any challenge into an opportunity for growth.

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