Today’s post comes from Mindy Postoff, a WooCommerce Support Ninja at WooThemes and one of the fun folks who will be speaking at UserConf Portland in June. 

Regardless of the product or service you sell, problems will arise and customers will be quick to tell you about them. These issues can escalate in a heartbeat, and suddenly you’re getting yelled at in ALL CAPS.

If you’ve spent more than a day on the front lines of support, it’s guaranteed that you’ve had to bear the brunt of major customer frustration at some point. It comes with the territory.

So you’ve got an angry customer, now what?

As much as we’d like to avoid an irate customer and sweep the issue under the rug, working with frustrated customers and solving problems can rebuild their trust in your company. It’s an opportunity, it might even make them bigger fans.

If you struggle to provide top-notch support at this crucial juncture, an angry client can quickly step up onto their social media soapbox and start yelling about your company’s failure. Customer support stories spread like wildfire, and the last thing you want is a negative opinion of your product and/or your service going viral.

Helping an Irate Customer in 4 Steps

To diffuse this ticking time bomb, you need not be a member of an elite bomb squad. However, you will need to put your interpersonal skills to work:

1. Listen to the customer

People want to be heard. Go back to the beginning: What was this customer’s main concern? It’s important to understand what the complaint is and that can only come from listening or re-reading the initial ticket message.

2. Validate their emotions

This is a skill so often ignored and yet one of the most helpful at easing tension. Express in words how your customer seems to be feeling. For example, “I can understand that this is frustrating.” It may surprise you how well it works. Empathy is real, and your words can be calming while showing the customer that you care.

3. Apologize to the customer

The mantra, “the customer is always right” rings true here. Keep in mind that apologizing is not necessarily an admission of guilt. For example, “I’m really sorry that I misunderstood the problem.” It acknowledges their trouble and inconvenience and can, in turn, reaffirm the fact that you and the customer are on the same side. You both want the problem resolved.

4. Solve their problem

The above steps acknowledge the emotional aspect of the conflict, allowing space for logical ideas to enter the mix. Once you have created an environment where both the heart and the mind can contribute, it’s easier to find a solution.

These steps aren’t exclusive to customer support, you can practice them in everyday life! Try acknowledging how busy your local coffee shop is to give the barista some validation, or empathizing with a coworker about how slow the internet is, or dedicating time to truly listen to a loved one.

At its core, working in technical support always has been and always will be working with people. Technology may allow us to communicate with customers around the world, but it need not become a barrier building connections on a personal level.