5 Ways To Defuse An Angry Customer

logoSmallCustomers are not always right…
But the customer is always the customer.


Word of mouth Online recently sent out the article below which really struck a cord with LocumCo. Insightful and applicable to any pharmacist and pharmacy owner.


Despite the fact that only 7% of customer reviews are negative, unhappy customers are concerning for all businesses. Sometimes it seems that no matter how good your service is, there are always people that are unhappy. But it’s actually not that hard to defuse angry clients and turn them into happy customers. Check out our 5 steps…


1. Stop: Collaborate and Listen

OK bad joke, but you really do need to actively listen without jumping to any conclusions. When customers are angry, they need to vent – so just accept that this is part of the process and know that your listening is actually helping. Make sure they know how carefully you are listening by repeating or reiterating and make listening sounds (“hmm, I see” etc). You also need to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the problem to move forward.


2. The Appropriate Emotion is Empathy

When someone yells at us, our natural response is to respond with either anger or go into defence mode. Avoid these types of responses. Whether or not you think there’s a real problem, it’s real from the customer’s perspective so the appropriate emotion for you to respond with is ‘empathy’.  Say things like;

  • “I can see why you’re disappointed.”
  • “Oh dear, that’s not what you would have expected.”
  • “I can understand why you’re upset.”


3. Apologise… regardless!

When your business has stuffed up, it’s pretty obvious that you should apologise. Do so in a sincere heartfelt way that acknowledges the disappointment and inconvenience that the problem has caused.

The tricky part to this is that you also need to apologise even if your business hasn’t done anything wrong. Clearly the customer expected something different, so there is still a problem and an apology is part of the defusing process. Try something like;

  • “I’m sorry that there was this mix up in understanding. I can see why you’d be frustrated if you thought you were getting ‘x’ when we supply ‘y’.”
  • “Firstly, I’d like to apologise for letting you down. We aim to keep our customers happy and clearly this time we’ve disappointed you – and I’m very sorry about that.”

Make sure you use the words “apologise” or “sorry” – otherwise it’s not seen as an apology.


4. Make it up to them (offer some compensation)

If you want to keep this customer (there are some that you shouldn’t), then you’ll be wise to offer some form of compensation.  After all, the customer has experienced a problem and taken the time to let you know about it (in most cases, they could have just left). The size of the compensation will vary depending on the extent of the problem. In offering the compensation, make sure you go into problem solving mode – perhaps even offer the customers a couple of different alternatives. For instance;

  • “I’ll get those meals replaced straight away. I’m sure we can throw in a couple of free desserts as well. Would you like the same dishes or would you prefer something different?”
  • “I know there’s been a long wait for this item and I am truly sorry about this. We’re told it will be in next week. What I could do for you is give you xxxx to use now until this comes in, or I can refund your payment.”
  • “To make it up to you, I’d really like you to come in for a free service. Are you available sometime this week?”


5. Make them feel like they’ve Made a Difference

The last thing customers want is to feel like their feedback is going nowhere. Make sure that you let them know that you’re very grateful they alerted you to this problem.  Then let them know the steps that will be taken to ensure the same thing won’t happen to other customers.


Angry customers are one of the most challenging parts of running a business, but handled correctly, you really can turn these people into some of your strongest advocates. We’ve seen many cases where a mistake has been corrected and the customer has gone on to be extremely loyal to the business and refer lots of their friends as well.

Good luck!