How to Handle Angry Customers

One thing we at shopVOX have learned, after years working hand-in-hand with companies using our print shop software, is that, no matter how meticulous or courteous you are, customer complaints are inevitable.

No sign shop is perfect, after all. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and say “oh well.”

No one wants to hear that they’ve done a bad job, especially when you’ve worked long and hard to fine-tune your process. But receiving customer complaints can actually be a good thing, because it indicates where significant problems still exist within your process. In short, it represents an opportunity for you to improve.

At shopVOX, we’re always looking to support the sign shops we work with, whether by helping them learn more about shopVOX or offering helpful tips to make the daily ins and outs of running a business a little easier.

That’s why we put together this handy guide to dealing with angry customers. Follow these simple steps and, before you know it, you’ll be turning customer complaints into 5-star reviews.

2 Main Reasons Customers Get Angry

The vast majority of customer complaints stem from one of two things. Either a communication breakdown has occurred at some point or the customer is unhappy with the quality of the product or service you delivered.

  1. Communication breakdowns can occur when important details are left undiscussed, steps in the process weren’t properly conveyed, or the client isn’t provided with enough information or progress updates.

  2. Quality-of-work complaints are a result of your customer being unhappy with the final product for some reason. This itself can be a result of poor communication; maybe you misinterpreted the client’s instructions, maybe they didn’t make their expectations clear. 

Poor quality can also be a result of hurried or slapdash work on your end. None of us want to admit to ever producing anything but the highest quality products, but it happens to even the best of us from time to time.

10 Steps for Dealing with an Angry Customer

  1. Stay Calm

First thing’s first, it’s important not to take a stern or defensive tone here. The success of this interaction hinges largely on you not taking your customer’s anger or frustration personally. Try shifting your mindset so that you’re not looking to deflect or place blame, but rather looking to find a satisfactory solution to the problem.

  1. Acknowledge the Customer’s Distress

The first thing an upset customer is looking for from you is validation that, yes, they do have a right to be displeased. There is a problem that needs fixing. By saying something like “I can see that you’re upset and I am so sorry,” you can acknowledge a customer’s complaints without necessarily accepting blame.

  1. Introduce Yourself

Telling the customer your name and learning theirs can help reframe a tense interaction in a more cordial context. It helps both parties see each other not as obstacles, but as fellow human beings.

Once you’ve learned the customer’s name, use it frequently during conversation, rather than if you use a formal title like “sir” or “ma’am.” This can help create a bond and repair the trust between customer and business. Let the customer know your care specifically about them and their problem.

  1. Learn About the Person You’re Talking To

Understanding details about your customer, such as their age, their background, or the extent of their knowledge of the subject can help you tailor your conversation in a way that is useful to both of you. Some of this information can be deduced from what you already have on file, but you can also ask for more details to help this process

For example, if you’re speaking to an elderly customer who displays a lack of familiarity with certain pieces of modern technology, avoid confusing them with technical terms. Alternatively, if you’re speaking to a customer whose way of communicating suggests a greater familiarity with your products or process, you can talk to them on a more in-depth, technical level.

Or, if a customer seems not just angry, but also nervous, you might want to adopt a reassuring demeanor “don’t worry, Mr. Smith, we’ll make sure that's taken care of right away.”

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen

Show the customer that you are actively listening to what they have to say by nodding or taking notes as they talk. Don’t interrupt; it’s important to give them an opportunity to express their frustrations, after which they will likely be more amenable to working with you, instead of against you.

In many cases, it’s a good idea to repeat a customer’s concerns back to them. This shows that you are paying attention, while also confirming for yourself exactly what the problem is.

To prevent misunderstanding, be specific. Don’t just say “I understand you aren’t happy with your sign.” Say “Just to be sure I understand you, Mr. Smith, you’re saying that you’re upset that the sign did not have the logo on it that you wanted.

  1. Sympathize, Empathize, Apologize

Show respectfully that you understand why your customer is upset. More than that, try to put yourself in their shoes to see how you would feel in a similar situation. This can help put you in a more understanding frame of mind.

Don’t make excuses. Rather, verbalize your sympathy, then apologize clearly and unequivocally. 

  1. Offer Solutions

Some customers just want to express their frustration. In such cases, having you listen to and sympathize with them is all they need to be satisfied. Others, however, are looking for something more concrete, such as a refund or a do-over of whatever job you did for them.

Other solutions could mean offering them a gift certificate or, as for example, if a customer’s lawn was damaged during installation, offering to pay for their landscaping bill. Any effort that can help, as long as it's within reason, is worth making if it helps you keep that customer.

  1. Thank the Customer

Remember: your aim should always be to provide the best service possible. All feedback, both good and bad, is valuable for your continued improvement. Let the customer know that you appreciate them bringing their problem to you and that you hope to do better in the future.

This also gives you a chance to express your hope of retaining the customer, such as by saying “I hope we can fix the damage to your satisfaction and that we can continue working together.”

  1. Calm Yourself Down Again

After dealing with a customer’s complaints, it’s often helpful to take a moment to restore your equilibrium and refresh your mind. Talk to a friend, take some calming deep breaths, or, if time permits, go for a quick walk to clear your mind before returning to your desk. This can help you avoid burnout, so you can help the next customer just as effectively.

  1. Follow Up With the Customer 

To cement your relationship with the customer, make sure to follow up with them in a few days to confirm that they are satisfied with the solution you provided. You can do this by phone or email, whatever works best for you.

Don’t forget to follow up with your sign shop staff as well. As an owner or manager, your principal focus moving forward should be to determine why the situation occurred and make changes to prevent it from occurring again.

Ensure Customer Satisfaction with shopVOX Software

shopVOX sign software comes with a diverse range of useful features to help you make sure your sign shop business is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. These features include:

  • Workflow monitoring, so you can observe the progress of individual projects

  • Task assignment options, so you can entrust specific jobs to specific employees

  • Calendar reminders, so you never forget to update your customers

  • Client database, so you always have easy access to the most important data

  • …and much, much more!

Discover what shopVOX print shop software can do for you. Try it today!