The Best CSR Mindset and Training to Deal with Irate Customers

The best customer service representative (CSR) training on dealing with and handling an irate customer tells you to not take it personally and suggests appropriate things to say to calm the customer. Yet in the 20 years I have been teaching how to handle an irate customer, the most frequent question CSRs and technical support reps ask me is how to stay objective and not take it personally.

Message to Each CSR: Choose either mindset that makes the most sense to you. Use it and you will stay objective. You can use both. I use #1 every time and add more of #2 when I feel my objectivity slipping.

  1. Don’t seize control! A car stops when the driver applies the brakes, or hits an obstacle, or runs out of gas. You are not driving the car. The customer is driving. If you reach over and try to apply the brakes, the customer will most likely fight back. It’s hard to stay objective when you are in a fight. If you start talking right away, you become the obstacle and the crash leaves dents/scars on you and them. Again, it will be tough to stay objective when you are scarred. If you let the driver and the car run out of gas, you stay objective and ready to help. The driver asks for help when the car can no longer run. Caution: This is not a comic moment. Do not say, “I’ll just wait for you to run out of gas and then you will listen to me.” This is a mindset not something you say.
  2. Yours is to Heal! The next time a customer is yelling, picture this: You see a stranger in a restaurant fall and get hurt. S/he is lying on the floor right next to your table yelling in pain. Would you think they were yelling about you and get upset with them? Probably not. It’s the same with your customer. Like a medical professional or a para-medic — yours is to heal.

A Broken Trust. Irate customers feel they have been wronged. Your company has lost their trust. They want you to know that they have a right to be upset. If you speak too soon, they think you are telling them they are wrong.  Let them have their say. As much as you do not like to hear irate customers, it is a sign that they are still interested in your company. Else they would simply walk away forever and tell everyone they know!

When they are done with the emotion, your empathy and action will resolve the issue. When you do this service recovery well, you may actually turn this irate customer into a loyal customer. It’s possible!

I look forward to further developing your team’s customer service skills with these workshops: Delivering the Ultimate Customer Experience. The workshops are very participative, high energy, fun, and info-packed.

Take a look this footage on adapting to personality types for a little taste of the fun: Spot and Adapt to Each Customer’s Personality Type.

Yours in service,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

©2010-2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, brings passion, intuition, and 20 years of experience to teaching business leaders, owners, and team members how to reach the heights of service for customer relations and business profits. See this site for workshop outlines and DVD footage.

10 Responses to “The Best CSR Mindset and Training to Deal with Irate Customers”

  1. R. McInerney says:

    Very interesting observation Kate. I think many tech. support reps and customer service agents would not even know they were trying to take control of the moment. Being aware of your own reactions would be key to staying objective. Giving the customer a chance to vent their frustration and anger before jumping in is possible once you realize it is so important to a positive result.
    Great post. Valuable.
    R. McInerney

  2. Liam says:


    Great post! So simple and yet so true!

    Best wishes


  3. Joseph Mullin says:

    1.) I would not let them intimidate me.
    They did not have a problem with me they had a problem with my company. I was just the messenger getting shot! This allowed me to stay calm because I never to took it personally. Also you can only be intimidated if you let it happen.

    2.) Listen very intently:
    When someone is yelling and screaming at you to takes more effort to listen to what is actually being said. Somewhere in all that complaining is the actual message of what is wrong. Once you hear what the real problem is you will know how to address it.

    3.) Have empathy for their problem, but also be the resolution for it. I went outside the normal realms of my duty to fix problems to make a homeowner happy.

  4. Bridget Webber says:

    Great point about being there to heal and help, rather than to take a customers rants personally. Once we can remove ourselves emotionally from a situation we can see it far more clearly and deal with it effectively.

  5. Dorie Hernandez says:

    Wow, again, I need to learn to close my mouth and, with an irate customer, not talk – just listen Dorie – just listen. This specific point hit home for me. I hear people angry/distressed & I immediately jump in quickly & get myself hyper along with them. That’s a big “duh!” I need to learn to remain calm, listen, and speak slowly – so they know I heard them. That’s really all anyone wants anyway.. to be heard.

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