Hot Under the Collar
Dealing With an Angry Client

By Lydia Ramsey

Originally published in Skin Deep. Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

When a client is angry with you because she feels she received poor
customer service or she's dissatisfied with a treatment, you may find yourself working hard to stay calm. While it is particularly difficult to be nice to people who are not being nice to you, it is an essential skill for professionals. Holding emotions in check and reacting professionally under fire will help you resolve the issue more quickly. And maintaining your cool ultimately will help you control the situation. When faced with an angry client, you can diffuse the situation by utilizing four key steps.

Step 1: Apologize. "But," you say, "it's not my fault." Actually, it doesn't matter who's to blame; apologize anyway. You represent the company and have a responsibility to address the issue. And if the angry individual is your client, it is essential you reach out to her and turn your attention to her concerns. Your willingness to be accountable will have a positive effect.

Remember, it takes two people to have an argument. If one of you refuses to be disagreeable (namely you), a disagreement can't exist. Apologizing does not necessarily mean you are accepting blame. Rather, you're simply saying, "I'm sorry a problem exists." When you apologize, do so with complete sincerity so your tone of voice matches your words. If you apologize halfheartedly, it will come across as such, and you'll make the situation worse.

Step 2: Sympathize. Let your irate client know you identify with her feelings. Explain to her you understand the situation and recognize that it must be frustrating for her. The angry person will probably begin to calm down as soon as her feelings are validated and she feels she's being understood.

Step 3: Accept responsibility. Let her know that you as a professional are accountable for the problem and you will work with her to fully resolve the issue. While this may feel like you're accepting the blame, remember you're protecting your reputation and that of your business.

Step 4: Prepare to take action. Decide what you can do, and let the client know, clearly and directly, how you will compensate her. Try starting with a 20 percent discount off the treatment -- or if the offense was significant enough, consider half off. Another option is to give her a discount on a future treatment, which will not only help diffuse your client's anger, but also encourage her to make another appointment.

When faced with an angry client, use the acronym "ASAP" to remember these four steps: apologize, sympathize, accept responsibility, and prepare to take action.

By focusing on positive steps that will help resolve the situation rather than becoming argumentative and reactionary, you will diffuse anger. And before you know it, your adversary will become your ally.

Lydia Ramsey is an author and business etiquette expert with more than 30 years of experience helping companies and individuals achieve success by adopting professional manners. For more information on training, consulting, and speaking engagements, visit or call 912/588-9812.

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