Small Business Snafus: How to Deal With Angry Customers

“The customer is always right, even when they aren’t.” It’s a mantra most businesses live by, and one that’s (probably) been around since people paid for their goods and services with clam shells and mastodon tusks.

But there’s another saying, too: “You can’t please ‘em all.” Anxious, annoyed and even downright angry customers are a fact of life, and it’s your job to (hopefully) diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand.

Here’s how to do it.


Even if you’re right, even if they’re yelling – the first step, always, is to apologize. “I’m sorry this happened, let me help you get to the bottom of it” does wonders to change an angry customer’s tone.

Listen Closely

A big part of successfully dealing with an angry customer is the ability to hear them out. You need to understand what they mean, not necessarily what they’re saying.

The woman complaining about the late delivery is upset because the package contained a gift for her Aunt Hilda, who returned home to Denmark before it arrived. The man complaining about a shoddy pest control service is frustrated because the backyard BBQ he spent a small fortune on was invaded by ants the size of hummingbirds.

Every angry customer has a story. It’s your job to actively listen to it!

Apologize … Again

Now that you understand what the problem is, you can be more genuine in your response. “I’m so sorry Aunt Hilda had to leave before her sweater arrived.” “I apologize that our tech wasn’t able to eliminate that ant hill. It must have been so frustrating to have your party ruined.”

Apologizing and validating their concerns helps to diffuse the situation even further, and makes them feel like they’re actually understood!

Remedy the Situation

Of course, your angry customer hasn’t called you just to vent — they want you to do something about their problem, and the sooner, the better.

If the problem is legitimately your fault, you need to go above and beyond with your remedy. Offer to ship a new sweater directly to Aunt Hilda at your expense. Dispatch a new tech out to the property immediately, and throw in a few extra services while you’re at it.

But what if the problem wasn’t your fault? What if the delivery service lost the sweater? What if the ants migrated from the neighbor’s yard? What if the customer is trying to con you?

This is where things get tricky. On the one hand, you’re a small business, and even one lost customer can affect your bottom line. On the other hand, paying for someone else’s mistake does, too.

In this case, weigh your pros and cons. Are they a repeat customer? It might be worth it to absorb the cost, especially if there’s a big chance they’ll bring you more business. Does your gut tell you they’re trying to get something for nothing? A sincere apology and a discount might be all you can offer.

As a small business owner, you’ll see your fair share of angry customers. How you deal with them can make all the difference — not just in resolving that particular conflict, but whether you’ll earn a solid reputation and repeat business!

Want more small business marketing tips? Give Mischa Communications a call. We have plenty of happy customers, and we’d love to add you to our list!