Famous Author, Steven Covey, told the story of a badly behaved family on a train. While the boys annoyed other passengers (with their loud noises and running up and down the aisle), their father did nothing.

When one of the passengers reached boiling point, he reprimanded the man for not keeping his children in check.

The man apologised and explained he had just come from the hospital where his wife had died. He was beside himself with grief and didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t even told his children about their mother.

Upon hearing this explanation, the passenger was no longer angry but was instead filled with compassion for the man and his children. His perspective had changed. And so too had his attitude.

Steven Covey told this story to introduce habit #5 in his famous book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Why Is This Anecdote Important For Customer Service Teams?

This story is important because it helps customer service teams realise that they must first understand why an angry customer is behaving in a certain way. 

Because if your team cannot understand (and then defuse) a situation, unpleasant encounters with customers can:

  • Impact the morale of your entire team
  • Push their buttons, causing them to react unprofessionally
  • Erode the professional reputation of your department or organisation
  • Create headaches for you, their manager
  • And make your best team members want to quit

Understanding Different Types Of Angry Customers

Identifying, and understanding, the different types of angry customers is a critical step in the ‘angry customer de-escalation process’. As soon as the angry customer’s “type” is identified, a response can be tailored accordingly. In other words, the strategy required to defuse a “hostile” customer will not work on a “know it all”. 

Below are 11 different type of angry customers your team may encounter. Do these seem familiar to you?

Volatile and threatening. Uses physical intimidation instead of meaningful verbal discourse.

Condescending and dismissive, the “KIA” never listens… but won’t take your advice, either.
Biased, opinionated, and rejects the fact they may be incorrect. Easily triggered.

Frustratingly negative and fearful. Often triggered by things that haven’t happened yet.

Has to be ‘right’, even when they’re not. Loves to argue, even when there’s no reason.

Condescending and patronising. Acts like the world owes them everything.

Uses bad language and abusive communication to shock and manipulate.

Complains frequently and is impossible to please. Often has a hidden driver for their actions.

Loves delivering an abusive, non-sensical verbal overload. Frequently set to “attack” mode.

Loves finding flaws and playing the victim. Will continue to argue the point after you’ve fixed it.

Loves passive-aggressive strategies. Uses silence and inaction to manipulate a situation.

Three Powerful Tips

Of course, identification of an angry customer type is only the beginning. Here are three tips to help you or your team better handle angry customers:

  • Use language to validate the customer’s emotions. This will make them more aware of the impact their emotions and actions are having on other people.
  • Defuse the customer before addressing the problem. Their emotional reaction will probably be clouding their ability to communicate. 
  • After a negative customer interaction, step aside and reset your own emotions. Take a few deep breaths and intentionally release the negative energy from your mind.

What’s Next? Give Your Team The Valuable Skills They Need To Handle All Types Of Angry Customers

Aggressive, angry, and emotional customers are creating major issues for frontline customer service teams. In response to an alarming increase in negative customer interactions, we provide “angry customer” and PD courses customised specifically for your industry:

  • Retail / fashion
  • Call centres
  • Rental agencies
  • Local councils 
  • Schools & uni
  • Medical 
  • Allied health
  • Aged care 
  • Travel & hospitality 
  • Professional services
  • Banking & insurance 
  • IT help desk/support
  • Utilities
  • Construction
  • Supply chain/logistics

Our courses will give your team the skills they need to:

  • Identify, interrupt, and extinguish angry and abusive outbursts before they have a chance to spark
  • Stop frustrating customers in their tracks
  • Bring rude, entitled people back down to earth without insulting them
  • Lead demanding people to accept more reasonable expectations
  • Diagnose the underlying, driving force of difficult situations so your team can deal with the heart of the issue and provide an agreeable solution
  • Build rapport (with words, tone of voice, and body language) and steer customers/patients towards mutually desired outcomes
  • Resolve conflicts and restore trust with customers and team members

Teams who have completed our training typically enjoy benefits including:

  • Fewer complaints, incidents, and tense exchanges with customers
  • A more positive and productive work environment that attracts and retains top performing staff
  • More resilient workers who remain calm and in control during pressure situations 
  • Improved team strength, with less personal stress and other health-related issues 
  • Higher standards of service and enhanced professional reputation
  • A happier, healthier, and safer working environment

We look forward to hearing about your training requirements and showing you how we can give your team the skills they need to overcome negative customer interactions. 

Request a training quote by clicking here or calling 1300 762 421.