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How to deal with angry customers: 17 tips, templates, and examples

Knowing what to say to angry customers can turn a tense situation into an opportunity. Learn how to deal with irate customers and use our free templates.

By Dave Dyson, Contributing writer

Last updated July 1, 2024

For a support agent, few things can ruin your day faster than answering a call and hearing an angry customer vent on the other end. It’s hard to help someone who’s complaining or cursing at you—and it’s even harder to want to help them.

These uncomfortable exchanges are difficult to shake, making it tough to focus on the next customer, who may be perfectly nice. So, how do you deal with irate customers in a way that allows you to provide an exceptional customer experience (CX) without feeling wounded in the process? Let’s find out.

More in this guide:

How to deal with angry customers: 17 steps

As a customer service representative, you’re likely the first point of contact for customers. When a frustrated customer reaches out with an issue, it’s important to diffuse the situation. Knowing how to respond to an angry customer is the first step to providing a great experience that builds stronger customer relationships and customer loyalty.

1. Stay calm

When an angry customer takes their frustrations out on you, it’s perfectly natural to take it personally. Your instincts may tell you to get defensive, especially when you know the customer is wrong. But remember, you’re there for customer support. You need to help them resolve their issues and diffuse tensions.

Before reacting, take a moment to process the situation so you can respond with a level head:

  • Try to understand that the customer isn’t mad at you: They’re frustrated with the product or service, and you’re the person to vent to.
  • Keep calm and speak with a composed voice: This can help disarm even the angriest of customers and increase the odds of de-escalating the situation.

Remember, you always have the option to involve your manager for extra support, especially if the customer is being abrasive, aggressive, or rude.

2. Be an active listener

They’re angry, and they want to be heard. If you’re their first interaction, give them the floor and actively listen to what they have to say. It’s your customer’s time to express what they’re feeling and experiencing. Take the opportunity to listen and support them through the resolution process.

If you’re the second or third touchpoint, repeating information or rehashing their experience might escalate the situation even further. If you have a conversational customer relationship management (CRM) tool, all of the customer’s interaction history will be in one place, giving you the context to help them resolve their issue—when you have the floor.

Practice active listening skills by:

  • Taking opportunities to verbalize that you’re listening—use phrases like “I see” or “of course.”
  • Focus on the words they use so you can mirror their language and acknowledge their feelings.

3. Personalize the interaction

Saying the customer’s name and introducing yourself can be powerful when de-escalating a stressful interaction. It creates a human connection and serves as a reminder that you’re real people instead of faceless, nameless voices.

An image shows a stat that says 90 percent of customers spend more with companies that provide personalized customer service.

Here are examples of how to provide personalized customer service:

  • Use customer data and context, provided by your conversational CRM, so customers don’t have to repeat or rehash things they’ve said in the past.
  • Make suggestions based on their purchase history or preferences to show them that they aren’t just another customer—and you aren’t just another rep.

4. Acknowledge your customer’s emotions

Instead of jumping straight into problem-solving, spend a moment validating how your customer feels. Use this opportunity to build customer empathy.

If your team made a mistake, be transparent about what contributed to their issue. That context helps your customer understand that everyone, even the customer service rep they’re angry with, is just trying to do their best.

Here are some examples of how to acknowledge your customer’s emotions:

  • Try something as simple as stating that you understand the pain they’re experiencing.
  • You can also apologize or say, “You’re right” if your company dropped the ball.

5. Use positive language

Using negative language during an interaction with an angry customer is a great way to light the fuse in an already explosive situation. Instead, use your soft customer service skills to carefully craft your responses, using positive language to lift the conversation and steer it toward a satisfactory resolution. Injecting positive language into the interaction suggests to the customer that you’re glad to help and want to work toward a resolution together.

These positive language statements for angry customers can be used as an alternative to negative statements.

A few positive language tips:

  • Avoid language that isolates the customer or suggests their concerns aren’t valid.
  • Use words like “absolutely” and “definitely” instead of “actually” or “unfortunately.”

6. Restate what they told you

Restating what the customer said ties into active listening. It shows that you’re attentive, you understand the customer’s pain points, and you’re interested in helping them resolve their issues. You can also use this tactic to ensure you understand their situation and what they want from you.

After restating what your customer told you, ask them to confirm that you got it right. A simple agreement goes a long way toward de-escalating tension and putting you both in a more comfortable space.

Here’s how to restate what the customer said and improve the situation:

  • Use the customer’s words to signal that you’re not minimizing their pain.
  • Look for opportunities to tweak their language to something less loaded and more tangible.
A customer service interaction depicts an agent helping an angry customer.

7. Build trust

An angry customer has likely had a negative experience with your product, service, or company in general. The relationship may be damaged, and you need to work on re-establishing lost customer trust to repair it.

Here are some examples of how you can demonstrate to the customer that you care, understand their issue, and genuinely want to help them find a resolution:

  • Take responsibility: The customer will respect your ownership of the issue when you’re at fault and start to let down their walls.
  • Be honest and transparent: Walk them through each step of the resolution process to show them you’re doing everything you can to help them.

8. Thank them

Simply thanking an angry customer for bringing the issue to your attention can help you build rapport with them. This makes the customer feel that they are a valuable part of your business and can help improve issues that you may not have otherwise known existed.

A few other examples of when to say thank you are:

  • After receiving customer feedback
  • To acknowledge their patience during a lengthy resolution process

9. Move to an appropriate channel

Don’t be afraid to embrace omnichannel support and move the conversation to a different medium so you can better help your angry customer. For example, moving a social media or text conversation to the phone humanizes the interaction, allows you to convey the right tone, and eliminates back-and-forth messages for faster resolution.

Likewise, you may need to switch to a video call to screen share as you troubleshoot their issue. Video communication will also allow you to analyze their body language, empathize, and have a more human conversation.

Here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Don’t force your customers to move to a channel they aren’t comfortable or familiar with.
  • Meet the customer where they are and only move the conversation to another channel if it’s appropriate for better communication or a faster resolution.

10. Think critically

Do they want a refund, or are they just looking for someone to validate their experience? Remember, the reason your customer is angry can change throughout their interaction with you and your team. Before addressing your customer’s request, you must understand their motivation.

You may need to go above and beyond your usual problem-solving to help your customer out, and that’s okay. Think back to your customer service training: Use your communication skills to gather all the information the customer provides and try to track down the root of the problem. The issue may not be your fault after all.

Here are examples of how to think critically during an angry customer situation:

  • Review each step of the process with your customer to try and pinpoint what caused the issue.
  • Ask the customer for detailed answers when you suspect the issue may have occurred on the customer’s side.

11. Don’t take it personally

Whether you’re a customer support representative or the manager an irate customer demands to speak with, most times, your customer’s anger will have little to do with you. But you’ll have to bear the brunt of their venting.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”Reverend John Watson

Your unhappy, dissatisfied customers are at the mercy of their situations, ramifications, baseline stress levels, and coping skills. They may be angry, but you’re not to blame.

  • Remember that your customer’s anger is not about you.
  • Investigate everything that could be contributing to your customer’s anger.

Understanding these things will help you distance yourself from the fault the customer may be trying to place on you. It also makes it easier to see the other person as nuanced, in distress, and worthy of your empathy.

12. Set clear next steps

You often won’t be able to solve your angry customer’s problem immediately. Therefore, it becomes even more critical to communicate exactly how your team will fix their issue.

One best practice is to walk customers through a roadmap of how you plan to solve their problems. This roadmap includes:

  • What you’ll do for them right away
  • What comes after
  • When they can expect a follow-up or resolution

Set customer expectations by telling them the next steps. If your customer knows when you’ll follow up or resolve their issue, they won’t need to call every hour for an update. Communicating clear next steps prevents the situation from becoming more heated and putting more pressure on your team. By following through as promised, you can diminish your customer’s anger.

13. Stay consistent

Inconsistent customer service interactions can confuse and escalate angry customers. Everyone on your team must be on the same page about what’s happening and the solution.

A stat says 92 percent of customers will spend more with companies to ensure they won’t need to repeat information

Creating an effective customer service plan keeps everyone in the loop and defines a clear strategy to handle every situation along the customer journey. A plan can also help prevent the customer from rehashing the details too many times. Reiterating information is a big pain point, and most consumers will reward businesses that save them from repeating themselves.

Examples of how to stay consistent include:

  • Share customer data, history, and context across channels.
  • Collaborate with other customer-facing departments so everyone knows what the customer wants, their history, their plan, their pain point, what they’ve done so far to resolve it, and the recommended solution.

14. Explore solutions

Exploring solutions demonstrates to your customers that you’re doing everything in your power to help them. It also shows them you’re trying to find the best solution instead of a quick fix so you can finish the conversation and move on to the next one.

“Showing that you’re willing to work for them, not take the easy way out, goes a long way even if it results in the same outcome.”Erin Hampe, Senior Manager of Customer Trust at Zendesk

Say your customer demands a refund, but you know a refund isn’t an option. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to your manager and ask for it anyway. Even though the odds of a refund are small, your manager might have alternative ideas for a solution that could boost customer satisfaction.

15. Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help in uncomfortable situations or when you have trouble finding a satisfactory solution for an angry customer. A teammate or manager can analyze the situation and determine the best next steps for you and the customer. A manager can also do more investigating and open closed doors for your customer in some cases.

Here are examples of when to ask for help:

  • When a customer uses abusive or inappropriate language, loop in a manager for a subjective review to help navigate or terminate the customer interaction.
  • For more technical questions, contact your product team or sales engineers or ask fellow customer service reps how they approached a similar issue.

16. Share knowledge with your team

Understanding angry customers and the reasons behind their frustration can help your teams:

  • Identify the root cause of recurring issues.
  • Proactively address and eliminate similar issues before they occur.
  • Build training and coaching exercises on how to deal with irate customers and handle uncomfortable situations.

The best way to analyze this information is to share knowledge between teams. Make knowledge management systems accessible so employees can share feedback about—or from—angry customers. That way, everyone has valuable insights at their fingertips. When teams can easily collaborate on customer issues, it helps the business find better solutions.

17. Hang up (as a last resort)

Yes, hanging up is an option. But if you go this route, involve a manager beforehand.

Loop in your manager when you’re dealing with an abusive customer so they can help you think through creative solutions and exhaust all options. It also gives them the visibility needed to know that you did everything possible in that situation.

If a customer repeatedly contacts your team to the point of harassment, it may not be worth spending the time and resources to nurture them into loyal customers. Long-term customer issues can take up hundreds of hours and cost teams more than the customer is worth.

Hanging up is an appropriate action when:

  • The customer wields personal insults at the support agent.
  • The customer makes physical threats.
  • The customer refuses to stop yelling or using inappropriate language.

Why do customers get angry?

What drives a customer to get angry in the first place? Knowing what contributes to customer anger and frustration can often help you address their issues quickly, improve their mood, and increase customer retention.

How to respond to an angry customer (+ 7 templates)

Maintaining consistency is important when responding to customer complaints across different channels, like email, phone, or live chat. With email and messaging channels, you have more time to carefully consider your wording (though you should still respond promptly and not keep the customer waiting).

Here are a few examples of how to respond to an angry customer via email. The templates below can be tweaked accordingly for phone and live chat replies.

1. Initial reply email template

If you need more time to answer a particular request, it’s best to send the customer an initial reply email acknowledging that their message was received. Make sure to apologize for the inconvenience and promise to have an answer within a certain time frame.

Here is a sample email template for immediately responding to a support request.

Hi [Customer Name],

We have received your support request regarding [customer complaint] and are actively working to fix the issue. We apologize for any inconvenience you’ve experienced and are committed to reaching a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and will update you on our progress by [date and time].

In the meantime, this [resource related to the issue] may help shed some more light on the situation.

[Agent Name]

While some inquiries may take longer to sort out, the customer usually demonstrates more patience when they know you’re working on the issue. Touching base regularly shows them that they’re important to you and that you haven’t forgotten about their issue.

Ensure your message’s tone remains apologetic, understanding, and sincere. Try basing your message on customer service email templates that correspond to the situation.

2. Delayed order email template

Customers have grown accustomed to fast shipping, so when an order doesn’t arrive by the promised delivery date, the customer might get frustrated. This is especially true if it’s a time-sensitive item, such as a gift for the holiday season.

Though it’s best to proactively advise the customer of the delay before the expected delivery date, you may not catch every one. If an unhappy customer reaches out to complain about a delayed order, track their package and send an email explaining its status right away.

Dear [Customer Name],

I’m so sorry that your order hasn’t arrived yet. I definitely understand how frustrating this must be for you.

I have tracked the item’s progress via [package carrier], and it’s currently listed as “[status].”

If you’d like to monitor its progress, you can use this link: [tracking link].

If your order doesn’t arrive within [time frame], please contact me directly. I will do everything I can to locate your package.

I apologize again for the inconvenience, and I encourage you to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Warm regards,
[Agent Name]

3. Wrong item email template

Getting the wrong order in the mail frustrates the customer and damages the customer’s perception of your brand. Reprocessing and shipping the correct item adds extra delays and creates more work for the customer, too. Your email must acknowledge both pain points.

Dear [Customer Name],

I’m sorry we mixed up your order. I know how disappointing it is to not get what you expected.

I reshipped the correct item, which should arrive on [date] via [carrier]. The tracking number is [link to the tracking number].

I will follow up with you on [delivery date] to make sure you’ve received the correct items. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

I understand how frustrating this situation has been, so we’re making it as easy as possible for you to return the incorrect item. I apologize for adding this extra step.

Here are the return instructions:

  • Inside the box, you should find an adhesive prepaid return label. Please attach it to the box.

  • Drop off the box at any [carrier] location (click here to find the nearest one).

If you don’t find a prepaid label inside the box, please click this link to print the form.

Once again, [Customer Name], I sincerely apologize for the mistake and the inconvenience it has caused. Thank you for your patience and assistance.

Best regards,
[Agent Name]

4. Technical difficulties email template

Tech companies and service providers must apologize for spotty service or back end issues when they occur. It’s important to explain what went wrong and try to atone for the headache it caused.

Dear [Customer Name],

I sincerely apologize for the frustration these issues must have caused. To make it up to you, I’ve refunded your subscription fee for this month.

It appears that the problems you experienced resulted from [explanation]. We’ve identified the source of the issue, and we’re working hard to implement a fix as soon as possible. Everything should be resolved by [expected time]. Once access is restored, I’ll reach out and let you know.

Once again, I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you need additional assistance.

[Agent Name]

5. Late response email template

When there’s a high volume of emails, one can slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, this makes the customer feel ignored, escalating their feelings from frustration to anger. If a customer complains that they haven’t gotten a response to their email, quickly address the original problem and apologize for missing the initial email.

Dear [Customer Name],

I’m deeply sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Your email deserved a timely response, so I completely understand your frustration.

As you requested, I’ve [resolution to the original issue]. If you experience any further problems, please contact me directly.

Due to the inconvenience we caused you, we’d like to offer you a [discount or deal]. Just follow this link [coupon code link].

Once again, [Customer Name], I sincerely apologize for the delay. We will do everything in our power to improve our response time so we can provide you with the speedy customer service you deserve.

[Agent Name]

6. Product quality issues template

Whether it’s different product expectations or an unexpected defect, quality issues might sometimes arise. Here’s an example of how to handle unhappy customers in this situation.

Dear [Customer Name],

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by the product quality issue you experienced. Your feedback is invaluable, and I completely understand your frustration.

In response to your concern, I’ve addressed the product quality issue you raised. Should you encounter any further difficulties, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

To make amends for the inconvenience this has caused, we would like to offer you [reimbursement or replacement]. You can claim this offer by following the link provided: [link to claim reimbursement or replacement].

Your satisfaction is our priority, [Customer Name], and I want to express my heartfelt apologies for any disappointment or frustration caused. We are committed to enhancing our product quality and service to ensure we meet your expectations moving forward.

Warm regards,

[Agent Name]

7. Bad customer experience template

In an ideal world, customer service teams will deliver an exceptional customer experience with every interaction. But when a customer has a negative experience, it’s important to approach the next interaction with the right language, tone, and message.

Dear [Customer Name],

I want to extend my sincerest apologies for the unpleasant experience you encountered during your recent interaction with our company.

In an effort to rectify the situation, I have [explain how you addressed the situation]. Should you encounter any further issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Additionally, we’d like to offer you a [coupon or discount]. You can claim this offer by clicking on the following link: [link to offer].

Your satisfaction is of utmost importance to us, [Customer Name]. Again, I apologize for the dissatisfying experience. We are dedicating efforts to enhancing our customer service to ensure you have an exceptional experience moving forward.

Warm regards,

[Agent Name]

Get all 12 angry customer response templates

Spring into action faster and respond appropriately with our free templates on how to deal with an angry customer. Download now to receive the seven templates from the article and five bonus templates.

The importance of helping angry customers

While talking to angry customers can be unpleasant, avoiding or ignoring them is a surefire way to drive them into the arms of your competition. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to help angry customers.

  • Profit: Providing just one bad experience can make a customer turn to a competitor. Letting angry customers leave rather than putting in the work to satisfy their needs will result in fewer customers and less profit.
  • Cost: Retaining an existing customer is cheaper than finding a new one. Creating great customer experiences and nurturing your current customer base results in the loyalty needed for a successful business.
  • Feedback: Angry customers provide valuable input on your products and services. When a customer is upset, they tend to speak up with brutal honesty and offer negative customer feedback that will help you identify areas of improvement.
  • Brand perception: Ignoring complaints can result in bad reviews, and 93 percent of customers read reviews before purchasing. Brushing off angry customers will create negativity around your brand that can take years to remedy.

It’s inevitable—customers will get mad about something. But now that you know how to deal with upset customers, you can stop dreading the interaction and look at them as opportunities.

Putting your customers at the center of your business, practicing customer empathy, and keeping buyers happy are a few best ways to create customer loyalty and help your business thrive.

Frequently asked questions

Flip your customer from big mad to big glad

When customers are mad, seize the opportunity to go above and beyond. Understanding how to deal with difficult customers and providing exceptional customer service can turn an angry customer into a brand champion. Our free templates for dealing with angry customers provide you with a guide to respond quickly and effectively so you can earn their business again.

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