4. Managing Angry Customers

Most merchants are not angry without cause. Their anger may be disproportionate to the issue (we've all heard from people with Hulk-level rage over a small blip), but that doesn't mean it's unfounded. Focus on why the merchant is angry, apologize for that, and fix it.

People have a natural tendency to take others' anger or disappointment personally. We don't need to do this – we put ourselves on the merchant's side. The problem is then between what the merchant wants and what's happening, not between us and the merchant. We are aligned with them, we understand, and we are working together, not against each other, to resolve the issue.

Not taking it personally is hard 😸 It takes practice, but it makes interactions with angry people much smoother.

Here's a checklist for managing angry emails:

  • Is your greeting friendly and warm?
  • Did you apologize for the inconvenience and for why the merchant is angry, not just to apologize? No empty apologies. We're more patient than that.
  • Did you take responsibility for the issue?
  • If you're not resolving the issue yourself, did you communicate that you're getting help from a teammate?
  • Does your tone say: "I understand that you're frustrated", "I understand why you're frustrated", and "I'm going to help"?
  • Does your email give the merchant a resolution?
  • Does your closing welcome additional questions or feedback?
  • Did you have a teammate review your email and help with suggestions?

This may sound stupid, but when I'm writing to an angry merchant, I read the email out loud with a smile on my face before sending. Does it feel awful to keep the smile on my face while I'm reading? My words probably aren't reflecting a willingness to help. Re-write whatever you need to from a place of understanding, not defensiveness.