"How Would You Handle An Angry Customer?" (Interview Question)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In a customer-facing role, you may encounter challenging situations and customers where some positive reconciliation and contingency management may be required. When appearing for an interview for customer service, hospitality, relationship management or customer success positions, the interviewer may ask you relevant situational questions. Your answers can help them gauge your ability to perform adequately on the job and keep the customers pleased. In this article, we discuss how to answer the "How would you handle an angry customer?" interview question, learn why interviewers ask this question and explore some sample answers to this question.

How to answer a "How would you handle an angry customer?" interview question

When answering a "How would you handle an angry customer?"interview question, think about the methods and tactics you would employ in that situation. There can be varying reasons for or degrees of anger, and knowing how to manage it can depend on those factors and the causes of the customer's dissatisfaction. Here are some steps you can follow to effectively resolve the problem:

1. Think carefully about the question

Before you begin to answer, think carefully about the question and what the interviewer wants to learn about you through this question. Handling disgruntled or angry customers is a part of any customer service role, so take time to think about it. You can imagine yourself in a similar situation and think about what steps you would take to resolve it.

2. Demonstrate your listening skills to the interviewer

Listening skills can be one of the most important skills that anyone working in the customer service domain can possess. When the interviewer asks this or any other question during the interview, show them you are paying attention and are interested in answering their question adequately. Let them complete what they are saying, even when you can predict the next question.

Related: Building Communication Skills: 10 Types Of Listening

3. Display a calm and composed countenance

As a customer service professional, it is important to remember to keep your emotions aside when handling angry customers. The interviewer may want to see if you can maintain a calm and composed demeanour throughout and handle the situation patiently. Show this while answering the questions and talking to the interviewer. Remain calm even if you feel the question is challenging. Breathe deeply, think it through and then deliver your answer.

4. Reiterate and confirm that you understand the question

When a customer is angry or dissatisfied about something, they may hold the presumption that you or the company may not understand or comprehend their problem. To reassure them that you understand their concerns, consider reiterating and confirming what they have said. This can assure them that you are aware of their issue and care about helping them resolve it.

While answering questions at the interview, you can apply the same tactic. Repeat and confirm the important parts. You can also paraphrase and reiterate the question to check that you understand. This can also give you more time to think about how you are going to give the answer.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions And Examples

5. Draw from your past experience

When answering this question, you may recall situations from the past where you handled an angry customer and quote them as examples. This can show them you have enough experience to know how to handle such customers. Narrate an example of such an incident. You may use the STAR method for this purpose. Describe the situation, the task that you had, the action you took and the result or outcome. Maintaining a log of your difficult encounters can help you recall those incidents easily and apply the same approach when a situation repeats itself.

Related: How To Use The STAR Interview Response Technique

6. Talk about accepting help from a team member

Acknowledge the fact that in some situations, it is alright to ask for help or guidance from others as long as you can resolve the problem for the customer. If you are new on the job or are facing a complex challenge for the first time, you may ask a colleague or senior for assistance. A supervisor or someone with more experience in the role can guide you or suggest a solution that might make the customer happy. Highlight the importance of not leaving the customer unattended for too long while seeking additional guidance to help better resolve their problem.

Related: 10 Powerful Tips For Successful Teamwork

7. Refer to your training and standard operating procedures

Talk about how you can take guidance from your training or orientation that was given by the company about different procedures and policies to follow for each type of circumstance. Tell them you may try to recall those policies and see if there is anything relevant there that can help you take the right action. Also, explain how it can be more effective to follow the company's established procedures, your own preferred strategies or a combination of both to ensure you successfully fulfil the customer's needs.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Nonverbal Communication Skills

8. Highlight the importance of taking the required action

Describe to the interviewer how you would take the desired action. When you know what action is required, communicate to the customer that you have a way to solve their problem and explain to them your next steps for resolving it. Then, take the desired action as quickly as possible. Try to make the customer comfortable while you are doing this. Explain to the interviewer the steps you would take and in what order would you take them.

Why do interviewers ask this question?

There are several challenges that customer service professionals face while performing their regular duties. Handling an irate customer is one of them. By asking how you would handle an angry customer, the interviewers are trying to assess your problem-solving abilities and approaches. They want to know how motivated and inspired you are to help customers, even the angry ones. The interviewers are also trying to see if you can stay calm under stressful circumstances and remain solution-oriented at all times.

Sample answers to the how would you handle an angry customer interview question

Here are some sample answers you may use to answer this question during an interview:

Sample answer based on past experience

This example shows an answer based on previous experience:

"In my previous role as a customer success manager with an IT firm, I have encountered a few angry customers. Once there was an upset customer because their website did not turn out as they had expected, despite the instructions and preferences that they had shared. The technical team could not grasp the customer's vision and they designed something far less appealing. When the customer expressed their dissatisfaction, I assured them that this was just a part of the process and we could fix it easily.

I rechecked their instructions on the email trail and got their confirmation on them. I stayed calm and composed throughout and remained focused on solving the issues with the website. Then, I organised a meeting with the technical department to address the issues with this client's website design. This time, I made sure that they understood the instructions, and within a few days, we delivered the new design. The customer was delighted with the final product. They remained with us as a happy customer until the day I left the company two years later."

Sample answer based on a hypothetical situation

This example shows the steps a representative may take if a difficult situation arises with an angry customer:

"Even though we do our best to please every customer that comes our way, it is normal to sometimes find a customer that is angry or displeased with a product or service. As a customer service representative, I believe it is important to keep one's cool at all times and listen patiently. I would operate from a place of empathy and try to understand the difficulty faced by the customer. First of all, I would apologise for any inconvenience caused to them.

Then, I would ask pertinent questions to establish the cause of the problem. Analysing the problem well can help you solve it more effectively. I would try to think of the most appropriate and viable solution that is likely to pacify the customer. If I am unable to come up with one, I would take the necessary help from my seniors and colleagues, to make sure that I can resolve the customer's grievance. And then, I would check if they are happy with the solution and if there is anything else I can do for them."

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