Apologizing is an art form – how to placate angry customers?

Your customer service representatives have to deal with rude or angry customers at some point. Unfortunately, it comes with the job.

Your customer service staff need to learn how to apologize to customers during training. The apology must be sincere and professional, otherwise your customers might churn. When trying to placate an angry customer there are some surefire ways to calm them down long enough to address their issues and thus prevent them from taking their business elsewhere.

Keep calm

While dealing with an angry customer, it’s important to maintain a level headed calmness. Maintaining your composure is the key to abating your customer’s anger.


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Nothing is to be gained by getting angry at the customer. If you don’t feed a fire it will eventually die out.

That is why employees must maintain a level of control while speaking with an irate customer and respond with kindness. Often times, when a customer’s fury is met with a calm and level headed response, they will realize that their anger is silly and will likely even be embarrassed and apologize to the representative for losing their temper.

A mantra that your employees should memorize is: “remaining calm, cool, and collected can put out the fire.”

It’s also important to never take the issue or their anger personally. Representatives need to remember that the customer is not angry with them personally, they are angry with the company or the circumstances surrounding their issue.

That’s why it’s important to leave all personal feelings aside and approach the angry customer in an objective manner. Your representatives are not a part of the problem. The old adage “kill ‘em with kindness” is actually true when it comes to a customer service scenario. That’s because 73% of customers stick with a brand because of friendly employees or customer service representatives.


The first part of crafting the perfect customer apology is to listen. Active listening skills are essential to the apology as it helps the customer feel heard and gives your employees an opportunity to gather all the information necessary to effectively resolve the issue.

Let the customer vent out their frustrations and don’t interrupt or try to stop them. That will just  make them angrier. Letting the customer vent can actually help you abate some of their anger. Sometimes people just need to get it out and once they do, their anger reduces.

Once the customer has finished their story, make sure that your representatives summarize and understand the issue before solving it.

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They should also be sure to take diligent notes while the customer is venting. When the customer has finished and a summary has been delivered, the representative should then ask any clarifying questions that they might have in order to ensure that they understand. Asking questions also shows the customer that the representative (and the company) cares about their issue and isn’t rushing them off  the phone.

It is at this time that the representative needs to sympathize with the customer to show once more that they care and that the problem is being taken seriously.

A golden rule to follow while dealing with irate customers is— if you respect them, they will respect you too.

The Apology

Now it’s time for the actual apology. Make no mistake about it, there must always be an apology. When you’re dealing with a customer who is upset or irate, make sure that your representative knows that they need to apologize, whether the complaint is legitimate or not.

Apologies can be simple and straightforward. Even something like, “I am so sorry that you’ve been having this issue and I will do everything in my power to help make this right,” can go a long way.  

It shows that not only do you sympathize, but you are willing to help. The key to a successful apology is to remain calm and sound sincere. If the apology is being made in person, make sure that the representative maintains eye contact and watches their body language.

Determine the solution

If your representative has apologized correctly, by this point the customer should be calm. Now comes the time to develop a solution to their problem. First, ask the customer their opinion on what they would want you to do. After that, put forth a solution that is both realistic and fair to all parties.

Remember, your representatives need to satisfy the customer to prevent churn. One third of consumers will switch companies after one bad experience, according to a study put out by American Express.

Recover emotionally 

This is an important step that should not be overlooked. Irate customers can take an emotional toll on your employees. Make sure that they are given a moment to collect their thoughts and emotionally recover, instead of  immediately putting them onto the next call.

Give them a moment to step away from their desk and get a cup of coffee or something. This gives them the ability to maintain the high level of service, without letting the emotional weight of the encounter impact their performance.


Apologizing to an angry customer and keeping their business is an art form and can be taught. Make sure that your employees are utilizing these easy steps and you will see an efficient customer service machine that is skilled at putting out fires and increasing your rate of retention.