Contact Us

Handling an Irate Client

  • By Judith Bowman
  • |
  • October 20, 2015

Handling an Irate Client

Coming face-to-face, tete-a-tete with an irate client can be daunting, yet this potentially volatile situation presents an opportunity to distinguish yourself at your highest skill set.

An irate client is essentially saying, “Give me attention!”  Therefore, we say, “Give it to them!”
Kill them with kindness.

Immediately establish yourself as the consummate professional, in control of the situation.
Exude calm and confidence through voice and body language as you endeavor to establish trust.

  • Greet from a standing position. You do not want to be in the position of sitting while they stand essentially looking down on you.

Ref:  Peace talks in 1953 with North Koreans:  The North Koreans, who are a shorter people, strategically positioned North Americans on a lower level in a sloping amphitheater in North Korea.  North Koreans sat on a higher level and whenever North Americans would address North Koreans, they would look up to them.  Whenever North Koreans would address Americans, they would look down on them, so to speak.  Physical positioning is important and subliminally powerful.

  • Encourage them to sit. Sit after they are seated and sit the way they do.  Become chameleon-like, in order to adapt and subtly let them know you are “with them”… you are relating to them.
  • Listen with your eyes (and ears). Be an active listener.
  • Validate them and say “I understand.”
  • Show sympathy for their frustration. Say, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.”
  • Even though this may have never happened to you, say you have experienced the same type of thing; share a story to show you relate.
  • Thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  • Summarize what you have heard and play it back to them.

You are sincere and respectful.

Try to maintain a sense of humor (it’s the American way!) and keep things in perspective.  Think:  John F. Kennedy.   As President, JFK was renowned for his ability to diffuse tense situations especially with the clamoring press with whom he endeared himself by his skillful use of humor.

Give a realistic estimate of when you will respond (should research be required).  Bring them to agreement; honor promised time frame … you build trust.

Offer a genuine apology, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.”

If you have a solution, offer this.

  • Lower yourself or your standards.
  • Return rudeness or vulgarity.
  • Be the better person.
  • Accept verbal abuse.

If you are unable to satisfactorily remedy the situation, bring in a superior.

Thank them for the opportunity to try to correct the situation.  End on a positive note.  You, your company will be remembered positively.

To work with Ironstone or our affiliates, contact us at 1.800.917.8020, email us, complete our “contact us” form, or join the Ironstone – Financial Industry Professionals Practice Management Group on LinkedIn and start a discussion.

The foundation of our Performance Coaching and Consulting Programs are based on Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™, which is essential to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Our ultimate goal is to help you avoid trial and error; shifting your mindset to launch your process of intentional change. [LEARN MORE]

Photo credit: ©Fotolia

Are you just getting by or are you getting better? Get started today!

Author Bio

Judith Bowman founded Protocol Consultants International in 1993 and has prospered to become an established Business Protocol expert, educator, corporate speaker, and renowned authority in the field of Professional Presence, Dining Savvy, International Protocol Awareness, and personal and professional development. Ms. Bowman also provides Protocol Certification. She is a graduate of Boston College and has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University. Ms. Bowman speaks to critical interpersonal communication skills and shares specific nuances advantageous to exemplary conduct in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive global work environment. She showcases everyday business situations and shows professionals how to leverage these as opportunities to demonstrate respect while earning respect - while showing you know “the difference” while making a difference to stand apart and outclass the competition! Ms. Bowman has authored two business protocol books: “Don’t Take the Last Donut…” (Career Press) presently sold in 16 countries, translated in 14 languages, and her new book, “How to Stand Apart @ Work …” She has authored a weekly Everyday Etiquette column syndicated throughout New England for ten years by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. Internationally, she authored a Business Protocol column for the prestigious Noblesse Magazine, China. She presently writes a weekly Business Protocol column for Boston Herald newspapers and has a coordinating weekly radio segment, “A Protocol Moment” on Herald Radio. She also writes a monthly Fabulous Woman series which features truly fabulous women who have shattered the glass ceiling and has been featured in Leader to Leader, March, 2015. Bowman has produced a series of support products which include: Executive Etiquette/First Impressions DVD, DINING 101 DVD and Protocol Training DVD – from her on-line How to Stand Apart series.