Listen first

Give the customer your full attention when trying to understand the reason for his/her anger and discontent. Listen and take notes before replying back. Paraphrase what has been said – try to state in your words the situation and ask your customer to correct you if there has been some miscommunication or misunderstanding.

During the listening process focus on identifying the reason of the conflict. First, clear any misunderstanding and then focus on the solution.


Always use positive and empathetic communication

Listening with an indifferent attitude would not help. You must show with your positive communication style, body language and expression that you truly mean to understand what the customer has to say. No matter how irate he or she is at present, your job is to try your best to pacify him/her and ensure them that you sincerely care and will try your best to help him/her out with the best possible service. Being defensive is a definite no-no here. It’ll only get matters worse.

Effective communication at this stage will help you in identifying the problem and then working on developing a solution(s) after exploring the viewpoints from both angles.


Apologize when required and appropriate

There are certain people who really like to hear an apology; it just makes them feel better about the situation. And you may be wrong – so it is in your best judgment to apologize if the situation demands it. It can be done in a subtle but sincere way and ensure the customer that all steps will be taken to rectify the error or situation.

If the error on addressing the problem was from your side, it is best to offer a sincere apology and also with a promise to investigate further in the matter. It might help to ease the tension at the moment and arrive at a productive solution.


Request some time to get back

And yet at times, there are some situations which can turn out more complicated than they first appear to be because there are other people and misunderstandings involved. It is the right time to request some time off – to step back and evaluate the situation and even interview others involved to get to the right decision.

Conflict resolution may involve new decisions and approval from other team members, the time you can request to get back on the problem may be the best decision now. Offer a realistic and short time frame when you can get back with a positive solution to the problem.


Be assertive when needed and be prepared to manage resistance

At times, it is just not you. It’s them and their unreasonable demands or style of communication trying their best to get you down on your knees to get work done. You just know then. It’s in your best interest to keep a firm stand on what was required to be done and what can be added to the current request. Being assertive also shows you know what you are doing and you really MEAN that. No matter what your position, abusive or threatening situations are not to be tolerated and you will know when it is time to call it off before it gets out of hand.

Asserting yourself and not falling a prey to irrelevant demands is a must-know skill during any conflict resolution. You can manage disagreements and conflicts productively when you are prepared and know how to say ‘no’ assertively.


What has been your experience when dealing with an irate customer or client?