Handling Upset Customers

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Customer comments can be hurtful. However, do not take them personally. Customers are upset at the situation—not at you.

DOs and DON’Ts of Handling Upset Customers

  • DO remain calm. If your customer is on fire, you want to be water. Take a deep breath and remain level-headed. You do not need to accept unrelenting rudeness. However, your responses must be professional.
  • DON’T become defensive. The customer’s frustrations are at your organization—not at you personally. Defensiveness tends to escalate conflict, and you risk having the customer feel misunderstood or resentful.
  • DO validate your customer’s emotions. Telling customers they need to calm down or that they’ve overreacted lacks empathy and that will not help defuse the situation. Better to say, “I see you are upset.”
  • DON’T blame others for the problem. Blame is an easy excuse. It is not a solution. Keep the focus on problem resolution. Your customers are more interested in solving the problem than knowing the history of the situation.
  • DO practice. As you gain more experience dealing with disgruntled clients, you will be less likely to be offended and be more skilled at keeping conversations professional.
  • DON’T forget to express gratitude. Thanking customers for their patience and for bringing the problem to your attention will only help ease tension. Gratitude can open the way to forgiveness.