How to Handle Angry Customer Calls in a Call Center? [12 Proven Ways]

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green tickDate: January 10, 2023

It is all about customers. One of the main reasons for Amazon’s success – and other modern-day leading businesses is that they pride themselves on being people-centric. They invest heavily in offering an excellent customer experience and take great strides to keep a customer happy. 

This blog will offer you 12 ways to deal with an angry, unhappy, or dissatisfied customer – creating customer loyalty and retention.

Let us start with the WHY? Why do you need to know how to handle angry customers in a call center?

The Cost Of An Angry Customer

Not knowing how to calm down an angry customer can adversely affect a business in more than just one way:

1. Offers lesser customer value

The goal of any business organization should be to offer maximum customer value. Customer value or Consumer value is the value a customer perceives to receive from a product. Some of the main factors that weigh in customer value are: 

    1. Efficiency: how effective is the product or service?
    2. Status: how worthy is the product to gain an external appreciation?
    3. Worth: is the cost paid to procure the product worth it? The cost here means the monetary value of the product, efforts needed to find/research about it, pleasantness or unpleasantness of the customer experience, time spent to purchase it, etc.

Focusing on number 3: Worth, the better the customer experience while purchasing the product or service, and post-sales experience determines customer value. 

For instance, unpleasant customer experience post-sales increase the price a customer pays for a product. Therefore, as a sales representative, your priority should be to resolve the issues asap, to not make the customer feel that they paid an unaffordable price for the product.

Customer Value Formula

2. Reduces lifetime customer value

According to Salesforce Research, 74% of customers will switch brands if they perceive the buying experience to be too difficult. And a big determining factor of this is how would you handle a dissatisfied customer as a customer service and support representative. So, the better you are at pacifying angry and pleasing unhappy customers, the longer they will stay with your brand.

3. Increases negative word-of-mouth marketing

In this hyper-connected world, one complaint mentioned on social media can create a negative brand image for all the people who see it. A bad review or rating can massively affect your customer inquiry, acquisition, and sales numbers – as the first thing prospective customers see is the highest-rated seller amongst the list of many. And, displeased customers would share their experiences with their friends and family, who will then be most unlikely to be interested in your business.

4. Losses in revenue

Regardless of the size of your company, your brand image is directly proportional to your sales. Forbes reports that in 2018, subpar customer service cost businesses a massive $75 billion annually, giving us a good perspective on the importance of knowing how to deal with angry customers.

5. Leads to poor performance

Even if you think that the company’s business is not your business, badly handling a call is an act of gross misconduct. Meaning you or your subordinates can lose your jobs over it. According to the Call Center Management Association report, call center turnover rates are high! – around 26% annually, this is certainly a space that can be careful about.

Now that you know the importance of knowing how to calm down an angry customer, we have listed the best ways to handle angered callers down below.

Best 12 Ways To Handle An Angry Customer in Call Center

Here are the best ways to handle an angry customer and how to retain customer loyalty:

1. Practice Reflective Listening

When an angry customer calls, most sales reps become defensive and blurt out facts in response that are best known to them. Here, the answers are not incorrect, but responses can be optimized. 

Here’s a scenario:

Customer: “I’m frustrated because I have a limited budget, and you’re unwilling to offer us a discount, even when I regularly purchase from you.”

Customer Success Manager: “You are not eligible for coupons or discounts as of now because it is not showing in our system.”

Here the customer will feel unpleasant not just because they did not get a discount – but that the problem they laid out vulnerably was not heard and valued. 

Here is where reflective listening comes into play. It helps you be perceived as an empathetic person even when you aren’t one. Reflective listening requires that you understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their words, emotions, wants, and motivation. 

Once you’ve analyzed this, then you respond by reiterating their thoughts and feelings back to them, then ask if you heard them right, and validate their feelings by saying that you understand them. 

Example of practicing reflective listening:

Customer: “I’m frustrated because I have a limited budget, and you’re unwilling to offer us a discount, even when I regularly purchase from you.”

Sales Rep: “So, what I’m hearing is that our pricing is a barrier for your business. And I’m not offering a discount that meets your needs, even when you are our regular customer. Is that correct?”

Customer: Yes

Sales Rep: I totally understand, I value your association with us, and I would personally be more than happy to get you the discount you desire, but since I am bound by company policies, I, unfortunately, wouldn’t be able to process one at the moment. 

Never promise to fix the situation — because it might not be under your control. Your aim should be to make your customer feel heard and valued.

2. Be Aware Of The Customers Past History

You don’t want customers to repeat their unpleasant experiences to you — that’s agonizing. It will only make them angrier and increase the level of dissatisfaction. 

Also, you need to have a fuller picture of what has been going on when you start your interaction with the angry customer. 

It is best to then have the following information beforehand or early on during the interaction:

    • The product/service they are inquiring about
    • Their past interactions with your company — who did they speak to – status of those queries
    • Length of their association with your company 
    • Their previous purchases 
    • And lastly, their concern and needs

With this information, you will be able to give them a quick resolution, not requiring them to repeat their concerns again. You will also be able to help an angry or displeased customer effectively and also tailor your solutions accordingly. 

Bonus Tip

It is suggested to have a call center software that gives you a unified view of all this real-time information at a glance.

3. Tap into the Philosophy of Beginner’s Mind

Tap into the Philosophy of Beginner's Mind

The beginner’s mind is also known as the zen mind. It is the method of approaching every situation as if you were a beginner in knowing about that situation. When you use this way of thinking, you conduct all conversations with the “don’t know” mindset. This prevents you from prejudging a customer or their situation, which is a major help in dealing with angry customers.

Zen’s mind encourages you to live without “shoulds.” This gives way to nagging thoughts like:

    • The customer should have read the return policy. 
    • The customer should have read my reminder email about their discount expiration.
    • The customer should not have assumed my availability for weekly consultations.

“Shoulds” makes you angry and defensive and thus jeopardizes your ability to appease an angry customer and increases the likelihood of the conversation tail spinning. 

With the zen mind, you let go of any conclusions, you make leeway in your mind for their customer – you give them the benefit of the doubt and become more receptive to understand their situation. There could be many times where a customer has justifiable anger. And 100% of the time, your job as a customer service and support executive is to assist the customer.

4. Practicing Staying Calm

Practicing Staying Calm

Being a calm and unagitated person can require practice, here are ways to become one to effectively deal with angry calls.


Give yourself 15 minutes every day and sit with yourself without thoughts. No screens, work, or distractions. You will be amazed at how much lighter you feel. This time will help you gain a clear sense of self; you will know that the real you cannot get affected by the misbehavior of others, and you were not the person who caused it.

Choose feelings and emotions and not let them choose you

Practice witnessing your feelings and emotions. Catch yourself when they get the best of you. Your actions should never be affected by your feelings and emotions, as that may cause you to not be particularly rational. However, rationally choose feelings and emotions and have better conversations and relationships at work (and in life).

Don’t have a black and white approach

Do not rely on quickly-formed conclusions. Avoid extreme conclusions and reactions. Being gray will help you forgive and focus on long-term goals, in this case, the customer lifetime value. 

5. Not Being Too Imaginative And Starting With Worst-case Scenarios

Not Being Too Imaginative And Starting With Worst-case Scenarios

Fear is a common feeling in sales reps when they are in a call with a disgruntled caller. Fear of a negative outcome affects how we act. 

In fear, we are more likely to react defensively than to proactively respond. And this fear is caused by being too imaginative and starting with worst-case scenarios.

While facing a difficult customer, some sales reps often see losing this customer for life as an outcome. And they would thus feel that having a truthful conversation with them might end up damaging the relationship.

To tackle this issue, do not imagine the worst-case scenario first. While speaking with an angry customer – listen, understand, and break down issues in smaller chunks approach the immediate problem at hand. 

Also, know that angry customers are easy to please once you understand them enough. You should also know that you can always reach out to your supervisors to help. 

Finally, you need to know that your job is to give your best in dealing with angry customers – and be okay with whatever the outcome is.

6. Know Who You Are Speaking To

Know Who You Are Speaking To

You and your staff should always be cautious about the words you choose and also whom you are speaking to. 

It is a wise idea to gauge the basic information of the customer first to use the language best suited to the scenario. An angry young businessman or businesswoman, for instance, must get dealt with differently from an elderly irate consumer.

Emotionally Wound-up Caller

Some customers might just want someone to vent out to. They would probably have a lot of things going on in their personal life. Unfortunately for you, the thing that tipped them over the edge was the unexpected bill from your company. To know this, you need to learn to be empathetic, give them the benefit of the doubt and use empathetic language.

Try using phrases like, “I’m sorry you feel this way” or, “May I suggest …” or “I understand ….”

Legitimately Wronged Caller

A customer with a genuine problem has a reason to be annoyed at your business. Your company is in the wrong, and you need to acknowledge this and be humble and apologetic about it. 

Try saying things like, “I’m so sorry that it had to be this way” or “I will do this for you right away.”

Too Creative With Words Caller

It is particularly hard to deal with an abusive customer. Nobody is expected to put up with angry customers being overtly unpleasant to them. However, it is still your responsibility to calm them down. You should always use professional language — don’t forget that your calls are recorded. 

Try saying, “I understand your issue, but we don’t tolerate this kind of language you are using.” Or “You seem to be very upset; would you like to continue this conversation through email?”.

Bonus Tip

While dealing with angry phone calls, it’s best to use positive and calming language abundantly. Use terms like “yes”, “definitely,” “understand,” and “do not worry.” All of this will help enable you to be a rockstar in dealing with angry customers.

7. Establish Trust

Establish Trust

Trust is the most potent factor to enhance customer experience and increase customer loyalty. 

Once you establish trust with angry customers, you develop a personal connection with them. This will allow them to be less over-reactive, more tolerant of your company. This absolutely does not mean for you to be lenient in the way you deal with them, but it ensures a seamless long-term association.

You can establish trust in the following ways:

Be truthful:

Customers are quick to notice when you are lying, and you doing this while they are angry will only enrage them further. The best way to calm an angry customer is to be honest with them. Honesty will not only help you resolve issues quickly but also establish deep trust.

Own up to your mistakes:

Take responsibility for the mistakes made and assure them that they will not have to experience them again. Use positive scripting like “Let me look into the matter” instead of “I don’t know” and “Let me speak with my coworker” instead of “I’m new here” to show that you own up to your mistakes. 

Doing this will create a very humane and respectable image of yours in the customer’s mind.

8. Practicing Proactive Customer Experience

There are two types of customer experience: proactive customer experience and the rest. Most businesses fail to offer a proactive customer experience. 

A proactive customer experience is a holistic approach to creating such an experience for the prospect or customer that they may never have an opportunity to be displeased, let alone angry. 

    • Using data and rigorous testing methods to understand the pain points of customers and how they want them to be solved. 
    • This can be done by developing products and services that are easy to use, easy to transport, store, and maintain. 
    • Have detailed self-help knowledge-bank libraries on the websites to mitigate FAQs.
    • AI-driven, conversational chatbots on websites can help offer answers and support to general queries 24/7.

9. Offer Incentives As A Token Of Apology

Sometimes a sorry isn’t actually enough. And when it comes to angry customers, incentives go a long way to mend the fence between you and your client. 

Give away free eBooks, guides, discounts, rebates, or extra services, or credit their account at the end of your support interactions. Such small offerings will reciprocate them to do a favor for you in the long run.

Here’s an example by Petco, a pet wellness company dealing with an unhappy customer:

If you have associated with this customer for a long time, you might consider giving an apology gift customized to their personal interest. 

For example, tickets to an event or a restaurant gift certificate, along with a letter or call of apology. This communicates that you value them as a client. 

Please note that you go through your company’s policy — and also theirs if your customer is an organization. Organizations often have rules for accepting and sending gifts.

10. Use A Script

Use A Script

Dealing with angry, resentful, and dissatisfied customers are not pleasant because they would often be rude and condescending if not outrightly enraged. And, if you make a mistake to take things personally, you might not be better placed to respond effectively. 

In that case, what do you do? You use pre-written templates. 

11. Humor is a potent tool

Humor is a potent tool

Humor is quite an antidote to anger because laughter reduces cortisol — the hormone released during stress and increases the overall oxygen intake, making a person feel less angry quite biologically.

Moreover, humor makes way for more trust and sales. In the book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive,” authors Robert B. Cialdini, Noah J. Goldstein, and Steven J. Martin stated that sending a funny, inoffensive cartoon to prospects and customers generated higher levels of trust—and led to 15 percent larger profits

However, as a sales representative, you can only use humor marginally and with utmost caution. 

Humor cannot be directly used with an angry or dissatisfied customer. It can only be used once you have mellowed down the situation in other ways; otherwise, you might appear absurd and even end up angering the patron more.

Follow-up texts or emails to an angry or dissatisfied customer, written communication with an angry customer, or one that’s gone AWOL or MIA are potential spaces to imbue humor for pacifying and retaining customers.

Bonus Tips

Use self-deprecating humor

Sales humor at your own expense is safe. It shows the real human behind the salesperson and helps build connection and trust. But don’t make yourself appear incompetent. If you are in a position of authority, avoid using humor.

Use light humor

Here’s an example of support staff on how to respond to an unhappy customer with light humor — offering an excellent customer experience.

Screenshot of an email sent by Scribd's (online ebook provider) customer support executive.

Be politically-correct

Refrain from any humor on sex, politics, religion, race, age, looks, social status, and other protected clauses. Even with the most loyal customer you’ve known for many years.

 12. Have an Angry Caller Policy In Place

Have an Angry Caller Policy In Place

An angry caller policy safeguards both customers and staff. In simple terms, it is a policy that puts in place the steps to deal with an angry caller. It helps sales reps to know how to respond effectively and know to draw the line between anger and abuse and disengage the conversation. It should help them know all the types of things to not accept from the callers like discriminative terms, threats of violence, name-calling, swearing, etc.

Important Points to Include in an Angry Caller Policy:

    • The three-strike rule – Sales reps are required to offer two verbal warnings to the customer before hanging up an angry phone call. Of course, this needs to be done diligently and diplomatically. That is to say that the agent has tried to work alongside the customer, and they just aren’t ready to speak in a civilized manner. 
    • When to ask for help: The policy should include when to ask seniors for assistance — having people with more expertise and experience listen to an angry call can be useful. They know when it is appropriate to cut things off, it is also a good help for the agents to learn for the future. 
    • Follow-ups: Even though there is no room for verbal abuse from a customer, you never want to lose sight of the customer and the sales they might bring for the company. If a customer or prospect leaves you with a bitter note, you are likely to experience some negative branding. Having a follow-up communication can help mend ties and also retain them. Therefore the policy should state how often to try to reconnect with an abusive caller, through which medium, and who should be speaking to them.  
    • Rules for repeat offenders – Unfortunately, there will be angry, abusive callers who would repeat their behaviors. Your course of action that was on the first time can’t be the same the fourth time. You may perhaps ask them to never call again and decide how to undo ties with them forever.  
    • Training staff: You need to train sales and customer support staff on the best practices to deal with angry customers. The policy should mandate such training, including training outline, assessment method, and timelines for refresher training as well. 
    • Help advisory for staff: More often, the noticed angry calls, even the mild ones, can take a toll on call center staff. Calls not picked up, abruptly being disconnected, etc., also affect the mental health of agents in the long run. They tend to develop low self-esteem, anger issues, become anxious, and also develop a cynical worldview. To tackle this, the policy should state ways to get professional help. Partnering with enterprise mental health centers is an absolute must.

The Final Word

The current business ecosystem is fiercely competitive. Companies need to walk the extra mile to retain customers and understand how to handle angry customers in a call center. We hope you find this list of immense help. For more content on empowering the workforce and best call center practices, stay tuned to CallHippo.



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