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4 Methods For Turning Angry Customers Around

Emily Niemiec

A lot of companies forward their phone calls to LongerDays, or rely on us to monitor email inboxes. As a result, we help customers on behalf of our clients every single day .

Customer are the life blood of every business, so providing great customer service is priority #1.

When you work in customer service, you are eventually going to come across angry customers.

We work with a carpet cleaning company, and sometimes our customers get angry when they learn they are outside the service area.

We work with a roofing company, and sometimes our customers get angry when the roofers can’t arrive quickly enough to stop a leak.

I say “our customers” because we take ownership of these callers/emailers… Even if they are angry with the company they are calling, even if it’s an issue we have no control over.

It’s “our job” to take care of the customer – to calm them down, and make them as happy as possible.

Here are a few of the methods our team uses to turn around unhappy customers. The best approach varies depending on the situation:

1) The “Feel, Felt, Found” Technique For Overcoming Customer Concerns

This comes from the Apple customer service training manual, and it helps to alleviate customer concerns by using empathy.

Feel: Acknowledge the customer’s emotion (“I can see why you’d feel that way”)

Felt: Link it to their own feelings (“I too felt that the Mac price was a little high”)

Found: Turn it around with their personal experience (“I found its real value because of all the built-in software”).

2) The HEARD Method

Disney parks know a lot about angry customers. 135 million people visit their parks each year, many of them toddlers who are prone to temper tantrums. Add in walking around in the hot sun all day, and parents are understandably worn a little thin.

Disney’s approach to customer service recovery is so good, companies pay The Disney Institute many thousands of dollars to train their own service employees and executives.

A an easy-to-remember technique they teach is the acronym: HEARD.

Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.

Empathize: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”

Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).

Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly. If you are unsure how to help, ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”

Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone. Focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

3) CARP Method

Another acronym! This one comes from customer service trainer Robert Bacal in his Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook.


Control — The first step is to be in control of the situation. That means not letting your customer’s anger influence your own behavior. That is, don’t get angry back.

Acknowledge — The next step is to acknowledge your customer’s feelings. Be empathetic and make it clear that you understand that they’re upset.

Refocus — Refocus the conversation on what’s most important: the actual problem at hand.

Problem-Solve — Finally, work to find a resolution to the customer’s complaint.

4) Apology Sandwich

  • Apologize
  • Explain what happened
  • Explain the fix (and how you will make sure it never happens again)
  • Explain how you’re going to make it right
  • Apologize again

Want to learn more?