Dealing with Upset People

In our business, we work with people who are sick, hurt and often scared. Because of this, people may become upset with us. Usually problems encountered are not the result of intentional actions we take. They are often the result of communication deficits, system problems, or red tape encountered which the customer is not equipped to handle. Here are some helpful tips when dealing with an upset person at work:

  1. The customer is a person and should be treated as an individual, not a case, an account, a medical record, or a diagnosis. Use Mr. or Mrs. when addressing the individual to indicate respect.
  2. People are not an interruption in your work day. They are the reason you have a job. We depend on them. They are our greatest source of public relations, either positive or negative.
  3. People have a right to their feelings: gratitude, anger, frustration, grief, etc. Validate their feelings and give them a chance to vent. Don’t deny or minimize that they feel there is a problem. Acknowledge the emotion you see them expressing and then help them work out a solution.
  4. Take a proactive stance: I can help you either resolve this issue or get it to the right person.
  5. Generally, the upset person does not have a personal problem with you. Remember that this is about assisting the person you’re working with.
  6. People want to be “heard.” Listen carefully to what the person is saying.
  7. Give the upset person the benefit of the doubt. They are probably not bad people but are responding to a situation, stressor, feeling, or a felt injustice.
  8. If possible, facilitate moving to a private area to avoid embarrassment for the upset person; the gathering of details may involve confidential information that doesn’t need to be aired publicly.
  9. Take notes and summarize the problem to be sure you understand the upset person’s point of view. Focus on the problem, not the individuals involved.
  10. Apologize for the problem. This does not acknowledge that you were at fault. It means you are concerned about the experience the person is having now.
  11. Try to make it right. This is the best form of positive customer service.

Some helpful phrases:

“How can I make this right for you now?”

“I appreciate your willingness to share this. We never like to hear that we’ve mishandled a customer but without your feedback, we could not have corrected the problem. I hope you’ll give us another chance to serve you.”

Keywords: Upset, Angry Customer, Communication Skills, Customer Service