How to handle upset customers.

9 Tips To Handle Upset Or Angry Customers In Live Chat

Are you frustrated with upset customers ruining your day? Are you looking for advice on how to deal with the occasional angry or difficult customers in live chat?

FACT: Customer support is a tough job. No customer ever initiates a conversation with happy news. At best, you’ll have a customer asking for assistance with little smiley faces and thank yous throughout the chat. At worst, you’ll have to bear the out-and-out rude and not-worth-the-trouble customers.

The always-rude customers, as I said, are not worth the trouble. But there are groups of customers just a notch below ⁠— the dissatisfied, the upset, and the angry ⁠— you must handle with care. In fact, you must please them with your service if they are unhappy because of inconvenience from your side; otherwise, the churn rate will increase, the customer loyalty will decrease, and the sales will plummet.

So how do you handle those difficult customers? That’s what you’ll learn in this article. But first, let’s categorize the difficult customers you come across or will come across.

5 Types Of Difficult Customers You May Face

1. The “I want it now” customer

These are impatient, demanding customers who do not understand you can’t solve some problems instantly.

For example, they don’t understand you only handle requests between 9 AM and 5 PM; they don’t understand you can’t deliver sooner if there are supply chain issues; they don’t understand you can’t add a new feature in a snap of a finger. These customers’ replies range from “Hey, can you please do X faster?” to “Give it to me now, or I’ll go to a competitor.”

2. The perpetually dissatisfied customer

These are pessimists: the impossible-to-please customer. No matter what you do, they have something to complain about.

For example, if you deliver in three days, the next time they’d want in two; if you deliver on time, they’d want a discount on the received product because the new sale price is $1 lower. 

3. The confused customer

This type of customer is difficult through no fault of anyone. They just get upset because they don’t understand something.

For example, they might not be tech-savvy and hence can’t understand how to add the API key, which seems straightforward to you.

4. The know-it-all customer

On the opposite end of the confused customers are the know-it-alls. And sadly, there are many of these people claiming to know better than you, a subject-matter expert.

For example, the anti-vaxxers.

5. The lazy customer

These customers know what to do and how to do it. Yet, they ask you to do it. 

For example, they’d ask you to help them set up even if you have a setup wizard (in the case of software business) and a help center with tutorials. And if you don’t help them, they’d get upset.

9 Tips To Deal With Upset Customers

You can handle all types of difficult customers using the following fundamental tips:

1. Proactively acknowledge the business-wide issue

Typically, upset customers contact the live chat support at random times. So, generally, chat requests do not pile up, and your limited live chat agents can easily handle requests. 

However, the number of upset customers may spike if there’s a business-wide issue. For example, if your server fails unexpectedly or all shippings are delayed, groups of customers will contact you through live chat to know what’s up.

In such cases, your agents won’t be able to keep up with the requests, which will lead to further dissatisfaction and agent burnout. Therefore, you should proactively send a message and acknowledge the issue when someone tries to live chat. At least, keep the response ready as a canned message if you fear alarming the customers who aren’t aware of the situation.

You can even go a step further and announce it on other channels, like this:

Upset customer in live chat example.

2. Respond quickly

The number one reason why customers prefer live chat is “Get my questions answered immediately.” In other words, if you don’t answer quickly, they’ll be dissatisfied. And if they’re already contacting you upset and you don’t answer fast, they’ll be furious.

Live chat response time chart.

Statistics show the average live chat wait time was 46 seconds in 2019. So anything under or around that will make for a great customer experience.

Here are a few tips to ensure the customers get a quick reply:

  • Hire the needed number of agents to handle the usual number of simultaneous chat requests. Also, look for these live chat agent skills when hiring: The ability to multi-task, fast typing speed, workload management skills.
  • Use canned responses to avoid typing answers for frequently asked questions. You can also use chatbots to answer FAQs and qualify support queries.
  • Use proper live chat software so the best-suitable agent can easily accept chat requests and quickly forward the conversation to an expert whenever needed. For example, Social Intents integrates with Slack and MS Teams…which means, if you use it, your agents (and experts) will get chat requests directly in the internal communication tool they have always open, leading to faster responses.

Tip: If you can’t respond fast for some reason, inform the customer of the same. For example, share where they are on the support queue.

3. Understand why they are angry

There are two steps to understanding why a customer is angry or upset:

1. Understand the text:

You must practice active reading whenever handling a live chat query.

I often see people miscommunicate when texting with friends because they either read too quickly or jump to conclusions. It’s okay with friends, but live chat is a professional setting. Here, you shouldn’t read quickly or jump to conclusions. Instead:

  • Respond quickly, yes, but don’t answer the question in the initial message itself. First, greet the customer and ask for a minute to read the query properly. 
  • Then, aim to answer all customer questions clearly. For example, if someone asks two questions in their chat request message, answer both individually. Moreover, if needed, ask them to clarify.

2. Understand the subtext: 

In angry customers’ conversations, sometimes subtext (or the implicit meaning of their text) is more important. 

For example, suppose a customer is angry because the Christmas gifts didn’t reach on time. In this case, it’s not the delayed delivery that angers them, but it’s the fact that they don’t have gifts for their loved ones. And no gift card or store points can suppress that angry feeling. 

4. Show empathy

Showing empathy is all about putting yourself in the upset customer’s shoes and responding accordingly. A proper, empathetic start to a chat can disarm an upset or difficult customer.

Your reply should have elements of all three types of empathy:

  • Cognitive Empathy: Understanding what the customer feels. For example, knowing the customer feels angry.
  • Emotional Empathy: Connecting with the customer on an emotional level. For example, knowing you’d be angry too if you were in the customer’s shoes.
  • Compassionate Empathy: Taking or promising a supportive action without distressing the customer. For example, genuinely trying to solve their issue.

Here’s a generic example of combining all three in a reply: “I am so sorry you have to deal with this ⁠— I’d be angry too if I were you. Can you please give me a couple of minutes to take a look from our side?”

However, do not fake empathy. People can see right through it. For instance, here’s Hazel from the Apple support team “empathizing” without focusing on the matter at hand, and as a result, making a customer angry:

On the other hand, here’s an AmericanExpress chat support rep prioritizing the customer’s needs first and displaying empathy second, leading to a better experience:

Dealing with upset or angry customers in live chat.

5. Apologize

Some people mistake empathy for an apology. Doug Wojcieszak, the founder of Sorry Works, aptly differentiates it: ‘Empathy is not an admission of fault. An apology is.’

Live chat customer support advice.


For example: when you say, “I am so sorry you have to deal with it,” you are not admitting it’s your fault; you are merely empathizing with the customer. On the other hand, if you say, “I am sorry about the delay. It left our warehouse late.,” you are admitting there’s a delay because of you (read “your company”) and apologizing for it.

Both empathy and apology are crucial to handling an upset customer. In fact, “apology” even more so if you are accountable.

Here’s how you make your apology sincere:

  • Be genuinely sorry: Empathetic apology is the best way to go about it. What’s an empathetic apology? Well, the name says it all – it’s adding empathy in apology. For example, instead of saying “Sorry for the inconvenience.,” say, “I understand you must be upset because of this inconvenience. I genuinely apologize.”  
  • Explain why what happened, happened: There’s always something at fault when a customer is angry. Type and send what it is. For example: “…I genuinely apologize. But, unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to help you at the moment: The whole of the US is facing a supply-chain crisis….” 
  • Guarantee you’ll try better next time: Once you solve the issue or promise to solve the issue, guarantee the same problem won’t happen again. For example, if the downtime issue angered the customer, say something like, “We are immediately adding a backup server to assure better availability.” 

6. Don’t get passive or aggressive

Taking accountability and apologizing for the inconvenience is crucial. But beyond that, be positive and assertive.

Let me explain all with an example. Let’s say an “I want it now” type customer is chatting, but you can’t give them what they need immediately. 

Here’s how the different types of responses look:

  • Passive: “I’m not sure if I can do it right now.”
  • Aggressive: “I want to help, but you trying to push for faster delivery isn’t helping anyone.”
  • Passive-aggressive: ”The terms say you’ll receive it between 20th and 24th, not 20th.”
  • Assertive: “I’m sorry you didn’t get the ordered item early. Yes, it generally does, but courier companies are busy this time of the year. I am sure you’ll have it before the last date, though. Please feel free to contact us again if you don’t get it by 24th, and we’ll do everything we can to help you :)”
  • Negative: “I don’t think you’ll have it until 23rd.”
  • Positive: “I’ll ensure you have it by 23rd, a couple of days before Christmas.”

7. Don’t take it personally

It’s important to remember that the frustrated customer is saying everything to a customer support agent ⁠— someone who represents a company that gave them inconvenience with their product or service. So most of the time, the comments are not for you, the individual.

Yes, sometimes, the comments can get personal, but they are primarily out of the customer’s anger or human nature. If you take those personally, it’ll exhaust you both mentally and physically. Sadly, it can even make you cry like it did this customer service executive:

Angry customer encounter example.

Here are a couple of tips to keep the conversation strictly professional and positively personal:

  • Ignore personal comments: If the customer gets personal, guide them back to the issue at hand. And keep calm.
  • Politely ask them to refrain from making personal comments: Remind the rude customers you are there to help them and their best chance of resolving the situation.

8. Resolve the issue

Responding, understanding, empathizing, apologizing, and all other ings are to calm down the customer and keep yourself and the company in a positive light. Your main aim, though, is to resolve the customer’s issue. Therefore, as soon as you fully understand the problem:

  1. Either resolve the issue: If you can solve their problem then and there, do it. For example, suggest a workaround, offer a solution, give customers what they want (a full refund, for instance), etc. If you can’t resolve the issue immediately but someone else can, forward the request to a suitable expert.
  2. Or promise a resolution: If it’s not possible to resolve the issue immediately, be honest with the customer, and give them a time by which you’ll fix their problem (or update them). For example, “Our IT team will look into it and respond in under 8 hours.”

9. Ask for their feedback

To understand how effective you are at dealing with an angry customer or helping the upset customer, ask for their feedback at the end of the chat session. For instance, you can send an NPS survey like this to get a score + feedback:

Live chat feedback.


Statistics show 68% of consumers stop doing business with a brand after a single poor customer service experience. It means you can’t afford to provide a bad live chat experience to any customer, even if they are “difficult.”

Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be able to diffuse the angry customer and calm the upset ones. Good luck!

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