Should This Customer Be Talked Out of His Anger?

The Situation

It was the perfect storm. Anton’s company shipped the wrong parts to a good customer, Jeff. Unfortunately, because of a family emergency that day, Anton couldn’t be reached all morning. Jeff almost had to shut down production. When Jeff finally made contact, Anton was apologetic and quickly got the correct parts to Jeff the next morning. However, this was part of their conversation:

Jeff: What happened yesterday? I was going crazy!
Anton: Really sorry about that, but no harm done, right?
Jeff: That’s easy for you to say. I looked like an idiot with my boss. I couldn’t even reach your assistant!
Anton: She was on vacation, sorry. One-in-a-million coincidence. It will never happen again.
Jeff: My boss was questioning your reliability.
Anton: Well, you can relax. You know I’ll take care of you. Look, I’ll give you a nice discount on your next order.
Jeff: That’s not the point! You put me in a bad position. How do I know it won’t happen again?
Anton: Trust me.

Why Isn’t That Enough?

Anton was unlucky that several things went wrong at once and made Jeff feel abandoned by his supplier. However, Anton fixed the problem right away and apologized. Yet, Jeff is still upset. What would be a more Q4 engaging and appropriate response to Jeff?

Emotions Often Come First

It’s obvious that Jeff is upset and wants to vent his emotions. While Anton is apologetic, he breezily tries to be Q3 with Jeff — smoothing over the frustration he has caused a customer. This is a natural tendency of salespeople, to try to quickly make things right. A more productive, Q4 approach would be to size up this customer’s emotional state and not try to tamp it down or rush past it right away. After all, Jeff’s receptivity is at rock bottom. He doesn’t want to hear how there was “no harm done” and that he can relax.


Reflective Statements

A better way to deal with a customer’s frustration and anger is the reflective statement: “Jeff, I can see this has really upset you.” This is one of the Q4 probes that actually encourages pent-up emotions to be expressed. You know how it is when you’re frustrated. At first, you just want to let out these feelings. Acknowledging them is a much better response in the moment than Anton’s easy, self-serving words, “I’ll take care of you” and “Trust me.” Does Jeff really think Anton is ready to trust him?


The reflective statement will probably unleash even more of Jeff’s anger, but that will actually help dissipate it. When given a chance, people often say, “I just wanted to get it off my chest.” The reflective statement allows for this; it’s the road to raising receptivity. Then, Anton can actually enlist Jeff’s help in coming to a resolution and determining that the problem will never happen again.