10 Expert Tips for Handling Upset Customers with Ease

how to handle difficult customers

Introduction to Handling Upset Customers

One of the most challenging aspects of customer service is dealing with upset customers. Customers can become frustrated and even angry if they have received a faulty product, poor service, or misunderstood a company policy. As a customer service representative, it's vital to know how to de-escalate these situations and turn a negative encounter into a positive one.


Importance of De-escalation in Customer Service


De-escalation is the process of diffusing a tense situation and restoring calm. In customer service, de-escalating conflicts is essential to maintain positive customer relationships and protect your company's reputation. Successfully de-escalating a problem can lead to a more satisfied customer, increased loyalty, and even positive word-of-mouth marketing.


Understanding the Reasons Behind Customer Escalation


Before diving into de-escalation techniques, it's crucial to understand why customers become upset in the first place. There are several reasons why a customer may escalate a situation, including feeling unheard, misunderstood, or disrespected. Other factors contributing to customer escalation include long wait times, unmet expectations, and a need for more empathy from the customer service representative. By recognizing these triggers, customer service professionals can better anticipate and address customer concerns before they escalate.


Recognizing the Signs of an Upset Customer


To effectively de-escalate a situation, it's essential to identify the signs of an upset customer. Common indicators include raised voices, rapid speech, aggressive body language, and interrupting. By recognizing these signs early on, customer service representatives can quickly employ de-escalation techniques to calm the customer and address their concerns.


10 Expert De-escalation Techniques for Handling Upset Customers


  1. Stay calm: When dealing with an upset customer, remaining calm and composed is essential. Maintaining a calm demeanor can help disarm the situation and prevent further escalation.
  2. Acknowledge the customer's feelings: Validating their emotions can help them feel heard and understood. Simply saying, "I understand you're upset," can go a long way in calming an angry customer.
  3. Apologize sincerely: A genuine apology can help diffuse tension and demonstrate empathy. Be sure to say I'm sorry for any inconvenience or frustration the customer has experienced.
  4. Listen actively: Active listening involves fully concentrating on the customer's words, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing their concerns. This can help the customer feel understood and valued.
  5. Offer a solution: After understanding the customer's issue, work together to find a solution that satisfies both parties. This collaborative approach can help rebuild trust and demonstrate your commitment to resolving the problem.
  6. Use positive language: Avoid negative phrases like "I can't" or "That's not possible." Instead, focus on what can be done to address the customer's concerns.
  7. Maintain a professional tone: Regardless of the customer's behavior, it's crucial to remain professional and respectful. This can help establish a rapport and create a more positive interaction.
  8. Take responsibility: If your company is at fault, take responsibility for the mistake and assure the customer that steps will be taken to prevent future issues.
  9. Offer to follow up: Providing a timeline for when the customer can expect a resolution or offering to follow up with them can help demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction.
  10. Know when to escalate: If a customer remains upset despite your best efforts, it may be necessary to escalate the situation to a manager or supervisor. This can help address the customer's concerns and prevent further escalation.


Utilizing Active Listening in De-escalation


Active listening is a critical skill in de-escalating tense situations. By fully concentrating on what the customer is saying, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing their concerns, you can help the customer feel heard and understood. Active listening can also help you identify the root cause of the customer's frustration, allowing you to address it effectively.


The Role of Empathy in Calming Upset Customers


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In customer service, empathy plays a crucial role in calming upset customers. By validating their emotions and expressing genuine concern for their situation, customer service representatives can create a more positive interaction and build rapport with the customer. This emotional connection can diffuse tension and lead to a more satisfactory resolution.


The Power of Effective Communication in De-escalation


Effective communication is essential in de-escalating conflicts with customers. This includes using positive language, maintaining a professional tone, and clearly articulating your understanding of the customer's concerns. By communicating effectively, customer service representatives can demonstrate their commitment to resolving the issue and rebuilding trust with the customer.


Escalation Training Resources for Businesses


Consider investing in de-escalation training to equip your customer service team with the tools and techniques needed to de-escalate tense situations. My online De-escalation Academy is the only training for customer service that not only shows your employees how to redirect verbal aggression and regain control of interactions - but how to get customers to accept their words as final. Take a look at my De-escalation Academy. 


The Long-Term Benefits of Successful De-escalation


Successfully de-escalating conflicts with customers can have numerous long-term benefits for your business. These include increased customer loyalty, positive word-of-mouth marketing, and a reputation for excellent customer service. By investing in de-escalation training and emphasizing the importance of empathy and effective communication, your business can reap the rewards of satisfied customers and sustained growth.




Handling upset customers is an inevitable aspect of customer service. By employing expert de-escalation techniques, customer service representatives can diffuse tense situations, address customer concerns, and maintain positive customer relationships. Utilizing active listening, empathy, and effective communication can help transform a negative encounter into a positive one, ultimately benefiting both the customer and the business.


Continue the Conversation with Me?

Check out my De-escalation Academy for immediate help bringing down the temperature in interactions and guiding customers to the next steps. 

Check Out Our Most Popular Training - De-escalation Academy!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.