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Dealing Fairly and Assertively with an Upset or Angry Customer

When someone is angry or upset enough to call an organization to complain, it is usually not because he or she enjoys doing so.  The person is typically looking for an acceptable solution to his or her problem, or at least a reasonable forward course of action to help perhaps partially remedy the situation.

An effective call-taker is therefore best-served to:

  • Listen attentively to the caller’s issue or complaint
  • Sympathize with the caller about the fact that he or she has had a poor experience (this does not mean you accept that the fault lies with you and/or your organization)
  • Summarize what has been said and check with the caller to ensure that you have got it right
  • Offer the person options or choices, however similar in nature these might be

The goal here is to offer a sympathetic hearing and the promise to at least try to find a solution, even if you privately think that it is highly unlikely or even against organizational policy.

At all costs it is important to avoid:

  • Becoming emotional or negative with the caller
  • Being defensive and/or difficult
  • Quoting organizational policy at the customer
  • Telling the customer that he or she has no options or choices in the circumstances (even if this is likely to be true).

Ultimately, the aim in a situation such as this is to be quietly assertive and only refer the call if the customer will not be reasonable or refuses to take the call further with you.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Assertiveness: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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