Nobody likes dealing with angry customers, but doing so can be a competitive advantage for many brands. Qualtrics found that 50% of shoppers think their complaints don’t go to anyone who can or will act on it. Businesses that listen and respond to customer complaints, therefore, could gain a competitive advantage.

We asked industry leaders how they prevent angry customers, handle customer complaints and turn angry customers into something positive for the business.

How Do You Prevent Angry Customers?

“Anger is a strong emotion typically generated as a result of high effort or a mismatch between expectation and reality,” said Julie Miller, VP of product management at Clarabridge. Preventing angry customers, therefore, comes down to making it easy for them to interact with your organization. “Analyze the customer journey and interactions across multiple channels to identify and remove points of friction that cause frustration, repeat contacts, channel hopping and redundancy.”

It’s also a good idea to give customers an easy way to reach out and have issues resolved immediately. “Provide optimized self-service options on the channels your customers already use,” Miller recommended, “such as live chat on the website and private messaging on mobile phones.” These tools can also keep customers from getting angry and putting negative information about the brand on social media or other public platforms. 

Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO & co-founder of Stasher, agreed that the best way to prevent angry customers is to manage expectations. “Customer anger or disappointment is always as a result of feeling like expectations have not been met,” he explained. But there’s a trade-off between setting realistic expectations and underselling the brand’s product or service. “You need to get the balance right, don't over-promise, but do over-deliver.”

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Handling Customer Complaints

“All complaints should be acted upon as soon as possible,” recommended Ian Kelly, VP of operations at NuLeaf Naturals. Delays can further complicate issues and make customers even more frustrated. “Companies should make sure that their customer support is active not just in CRMs,” he suggested, “but also in social media.” That way, they can catch customer complaints fast no matter where they are. “Negative comments on social media are even more critical as it is open to the public,” Kelly continued. Companies need to actively manage their brand reputation on social media by responding to customer complaints and poor reviews quickly and efficiently. “Acknowledgment in social media of the problem,” Kelly explained, “will also give the public a perception that this company can be counted upon in case things go wrong.”

Learning Opportunities

Wedderburn-Day said that quality-of-service is just as important as speed. Customers want a quick human interaction, not a chatbot or automated response. “I have seen time and again that initially angry customers have become some of our biggest ambassadors,” Wedderburn-Day said, “because we were quick to make them feel heard and resolve their problems.” Customers don’t remain angry if they see that the brand is putting in a lot of effort to make them happy.

“Having a constant pulse on the conversations taking place in your customer service organization and online on public social media channels is crucial for hearing and responding to complaints in a timely manner,” Miller agreed. In some industries like financial services and healthcare responding fast isn’t just a customer experience tactic, but mandatory for complying with strict regulations.

Can Businesses Benefit From Angry Customers?

For Miller, customer issues and complaints are a great source of information that drives business decisions. “Angry customers provide invaluable feedback about business processes that aren’t working well,” she explained, “inefficiencies that are probably impacting revenue and customer satisfaction broadly.” Using technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically capture and analyze customer complaints can help drive business decisions going forward.

“It is also an opportunity for businesses to prove that they care about their customers,” Kelly added, “and are willing to take feedback and improve.” In many cases, angry customers reveal issues the business doesn’t know about and enable brands to improve their product or service based on real customer reviews. “Even happy customers can be pressed with questions on how the existing products/service can be improved,” Kelly said. Either way, constant customer feedback can reveal consistent problems that companies should address.

“The best businesses,” concluded Kelly, “always convert an angry customer to a regular customer.” It takes real effort to prevent angry customers and manage customer complaints efficiently, but those businesses that find a way can reap the benefits.