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Ecommerce Customer Service Basics – How to Deal with Angry Customers


No one really likes dealing with an angry or disgruntled customer,

Be Prepared – Have a strategy in place!

but it’s a valuable lesson to learn to be able to efficiently and effectively and one that both my wife Sam & I have learnt the hard way to be frank so we thought a few guidelines here might help others get through it, so here goes….

Customer Service is King

It amazes me how little time online marketers devote to customer service. You expect a big company or brick and mortar business to offer customer service, but what about websites? It’s actually even more essential when you run an online business. For one thing, there is on face-to-face contact and people are naturally suspicious of websites. Even more importantly, online reputation is everything. One angry customer can tell the entire world about your lousy service and it’s there 24/7 for all to see.

There are several things you need to have in place before you start selling online. Make sure your site has a clear, prominently displayed privacy policy page. Your customers need to know exactly what you’re doing or not doing with their information before they buy from you.

Get Organised

Your site should offer them several ways to contact you. Email and chat are good, but I always recommend offering a toll-free number. It may sound like a hassle to do this, but the customer service benefits are well worth it. Toll-free numbers are very cheap these days and even if people don’t use it, just seeing it there on your site adds trust and credibility.

Before I get into how to handle an angry customer, I can’t stress enough regular monitoring of your good name online. Be proactive in finding out what people are saying about you and managing your reputation. Sign up for Google Alerts or some other notification program and respond quickly when someone is praising you or complaining about you.

When you get an angry customer, it’s important to respond the right way and do it immediately.

Shut Up & Listen

First, listen to them. Ask them exactly why they were unhappy with your product or service. Ask whatever questions you need in order to clarify. At this stage don’t defend your company or try to offer solutions. The most important thing is to let them get it off their chest and to empathize.

I said ’empathize,’ not ‘apologize.’ Be careful that you not admit to any wrongdoing (unless you really did something wrong). An apology can be taken as an admission of guilt.

Listening and empathizing can be a humbling experience. Set your pride aside at this stage and just listen. It can be grating on the nerves but it’s important.

The next step is to clarify company policies if necessary. Customer complaints often come from misunderstandings. A person may have bought your info product thinking it was going to contain something else. They might be upset because you shared information they submitted because they didn’t understand your privacy policy. Take this opportunity to gently explain your policies to them.

Always Make an Offering

Finally, offer a solution. The important thing about the solution is that it needs to make them feel satisfied, but it also has to be within your policies. Before you launch your products or services, set boundaries that define what you will and won’t do for customers. Brainstorm some possible things you can do for angry customers, like offering a discount or offering them a free service to make it up to them. If you have these planned beforehand, it’s easy to offer a solution when problems arise.

You need to create a customer service plan beforehand outlining how you’ll deal with customer issues. When creating this plan, think about experiences you’ve had with companies that were both positive and negative. What made you decide never to give a company your business again? What did a business do for you that turned you into a loyal fan?

Customer service is tough and it sometimes means giving away something for nothing in return, but so few online businesses offer adequate customer service that if yours rocks, it’ll help you stand out from the rest.

Sam & Toby Russell

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