Understanding the “What” and “Why” Behind Angry Customers

dealing with angry customers in project management

Regardless of whether you are a small business owner or a project manager, you’ve probably encountered working with angry customers before. It’s just the nature of business sometimes. Some customers you have great relationships with where others may be a little bit more difficult to work with and please. While it is obviously nothing to look forward to, in fact it is something that small business owners and project managers dread, it is important to learn how to handle situations like this effectively. Here are some tips on how to deal with those angry customers professionally and efficiently.

So if you get an angry voicemail or email from a customer, what do you do first? The first things to keep in mind are to stay calm, don’t panic, and take a few deep breaths. Remember that as a professional small business owner or project manager, your response to the angry customer—whether verbal or written—should address the issue, vent the customer’s anger, and figure out a solution. All in all, keep in mind the following:

  • Understand the What and Why. Once you are ready to address the angry customer, it is best to first study the issue. It’s important for small business owners and project managers to keep in mind that although it may be scary or uncomfortable, all customers have the right to be angry. It may be due to a miscommunication or a simple misunderstanding, but allow them to be angry.With this in mind, it’s time to study the issue. Why is he or she angry? Did something go wrong with a project? Was there a miscommunication somewhere in the project’s lifecycle? Is the issue related to price? Was there a specification not properly addressed? It may be necessary to do some background research and get the story straight before addressing the customer. Figure out the what and the why.
  • Don’t Take it Personal. Whatever the issue may be, or how angry the customer may get, remember not to take it personal. This can be difficult for some small business owners and project managers, especially for those who are fully vested in their projects and dedicate a lot of time, money, and research into a particular project. However, it’s important to realize that just because a customer is angry that it bears no reflection on you as a person. It does, however, show you are as a person in how you handle the situation.In addition to this, it’s important to remember to avoid getting emotional. An angry retort or sarcastic response is only going to “feed the fire”, so to speak. Sure, addressing the issue may be frustrating, the customer may say things that are uncalled for, misinterpreted, or downright unfair. This happens more often than not. However, responding negatively—when at times may be extremely difficult—will only makes the matter worse and nothing will get resolved.
  • Propose a Solution. After addressing the customer’s concerns, understanding the what and why and responding in a practical and effective manner, hopefully that was enough where the customer is now in a better place to address the project. At this point you can discuss possible solutions on how to fix or address the issue and work with them to make it right. If none of the solutions your proposed will work for him or her, then reach out and ask them what would make them happy. Yes, it’s true that some customers have ridiculous requests that are either impossible or illegal, but be honest with them. “We can’t do this, but we can try to do this…”

All in all, dealing with angry customers is something no small business owner or project manager wants to deal with. It can be frustrating and uncomfortable and even ruin your day. However, keeping a level head, an open mind, and a calm and positive attitude will almost always make the situation better, even if you can’t reach a resolution immediately.

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About Julie

Julie Anne Hoey is the owner and founder of J. H. Language Solutions. She has over four years experience in publishing as a full time editor and project manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusett. The main focus of her personal and professional studies has always been language. Her project management experience began while she was working for Victory Productions, a small publishing house in Worcester, MA. She now holds a position at Pearson Learning Solutions, the largest textbook publisher in the world, managing an initiative to ensure that custom higher ed textbooks are more relevant and cost effective for students. As the textbook publishing industry is facing steep competition from digital format books, she has learned to work closely with professors, adopters and field editors all over the country to ensure projects are seen through to successful completion. Her own consulting business, J. H. Language Solutions, is dedicated to helping businesses and individuals with their language needs and challenges whether it be translation, editing, writing blogs, or project management. She can be hired via her oDesk page: https://www.odesk.com/users/~~c730f492668d3f4d?sid=28001