Tips for Communicating with an Angry Client

Broken trust lies at the bottom of nearly every business conflict.unhappy-customer

A missed deadline. A failure to meet customer expectations. A mistake that costs the customer with their own client.

Some unhappy customers demand a fix.

Others quietly leave. But, they refuse to trust you with their business ever again.

That same broken trust undermines communication. Though you desperately want to make the situation right, your offers fall on deaf ears. When customers no longer trust, they often no longer listen.

Even worse they vent their anger. On Facebook. On Yelp. On Google. Hundreds of potential clients now only know about the problem.

How can you reopen the doors to maintain the business relationship–and your reputation? Three tips help you re-establish communication, repair the relationship, and regain the client.

Tip 1. Listen. Focus on words not motives

Most people simply want to be heard. When an angry client calls, take the time to listen.

All too often, people spend the time others are talking formulating their response. Listen to hear–not respond. Listen for:

  • What is the client’s real concern?
  • What is their injury?
  • What piece of this do you own?

Let the person talk as long as it takes to fully explain him/herself–emotions and all.

Sometimes you get the bottom line in moments. Don’t cut your client off.

Allowing your client to fully express their concerns shows honor. Honor lays a foundation for renewed trust.

When your client has finished, reflect back what you heard. This ensures you truly understand and opens the door for correction of your understanding when needed.

As you listen, avoid attributing motives to the other party. Though you may know the other person well, the heat of the moment might have you guessing incorrectly.

Focus instead on the other person’s words. If she’s complaining about a missed deadline don’t assume she’s trying to get out of the deal or take advantage. Instead, focus on addressing the stated issue in the most effective way possible. Taking people at their word cuts through confusion and gets you both on the same page.

Tip 2. When speaking: Be stupidly concrete then double check

Conflict leads to mistrust. Mistrust causes people to ascribe the worst motives to the other person’s words. You may be trying to help, but somehow you angry client assumes the worst in your reply.

For example, when explaining why an order didn’t make the deadline, if you say, “The email setting the deadline didn’t come through to us,” your client might immediately jump to the conclusion that you are trying to blame her.

Instead, you could more concretely say we want to make your deadlines. We don’t have a record of the email you sent setting the timetable. We believe something glitched between your sending and our receiving. We want to make this right. How can we do that? Concrete statements limit misunderstanding.

Further, use your calmest, most respectful tone. This also limits misunderstanding.

Finally, double check. What did you hear? If your customer offers any interpretation other than a focus on missing the deadline, you can clarify. “I want to meet your expectations. I’m not trying to shift blame. I’m just explain how the error happened and find a way to fix it.” Confirming with a text or email creates a concrete record of agreements to refresh memories.

Some companies live by the motto, “The customer is always right.” We all know this isn’t true. And faking it can communicate hypocrisy to a customer.

Better motto, “The customer always matters.” As tone, expression, and words communicate, “Your concerns matter to me–let’s fix this,” trust returns.

Tip 3. When acting: Ensure actions match words

Trust, once broken, can’t be rebuilt through words alone or grand gestures.

You regain client trust through consistent actions that match words. Every time you give your customer exactly what you promise, you  deposit into their trust bank account. As the deposits accrue, disgruntled customers come to trust working with you again.

Broken trust destroys both relationships and communication. A few steps re-establish communication. As you and your client communicate more effectively, you rebuild trust. And regain your client.

The Resolution Center helps small businesses resolve issues with clients, business partners, or between employees. If you would like to resolve the issues, stay out of court, and protect the relationships–call us at 317-344-9740. Or, email We are here to serve you.



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Though we come from a variety of experiences and backgrounds, the team at The Resolution Center shares one common goal: to bring healing and hope to those going through turmoil. ‘We know conflict wreaks havoc and wrecks dreams. Each of us brings specialized skills and a proven process to move people through the conflict to a place of stability, peace, and the possibility for their future.

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