"How To Deal With an Angry Customer" Interview Question

Updated March 10, 2023

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Customer-facing roles, such as receptionists and retail associates, involve considerable interaction with customers. During an interview for this type of role, employers might ask how you would deal with an angry customer. Learning how to answer this question can help you make a good impression.

In this article, we clarify why employers ask how you would deal with an angry customer, provide steps to help you develop a detailed answer and share three examples as a guide.

Please note that the company mentioned in this article is not affiliated with Indeed.

Related: Interview Question: How Do You Deal With a Difficult Customer

Why employers ask how you would deal with an angry customer

The "how to deal with an angry customer" interview question gives employers an insight into your conflict resolution, problem-solving and communication skills. Knowing you possess these attributes gives employers confidence in your ability to handle a tense situation calmly and appropriately.

The following outlines why employers might value these qualities:

  • Conflict resolution: Employers may look for this skill to see whether you can remain calm during tense situations and think of achievable solutions quickly. It also supports your ability to preserve and build customer relationships, helping the workplace sustain a positive reputation.

  • Problem-solving: Employers may want to see that you can use your initiative and attention to detail to identify key points an angry customer may make, so you can tailor a solution to suit their needs.

  • Communication: Employers may assess how you verbally deliver your answer to determine how you maintain a conversation while receiving unknown questions. Communication also relates to active listening, which helps you show empathy towards customers and written communication, as some complaints may appear via email.

Related: 21 Important Customer Service Skills (With Resume Example)

How to answer "how to deal with an angry customer"

Here are five steps to consider when preparing your answer to "how to deal with an angry customer":

1. Consider how you might act in this scenario

Considering how you might react to a frustrated customer can help you develop an accurate response. Authentically answering can help you display genuine emotion, which shows employers you're passionate about helping others. It also lets you identify the unique value you bring to this scenario. For example, you might recognize your ability to diffuse tension by speaking concisely or maintaining confidence without being perceived as arrogance, helping you regulate the conversation.

Read more: Confidence vs. Arrogance: Definitions and Key Differences

2. Think of real-life examples

If you've had previous customer-facing jobs, you may have experience handling complaints or communicating with an angry customer. Prioritize examples with satisfactory outcomes so employers can visualize the positive impact you could have at their workplace. The situation, task, action and result (STAR) method can help you describe your experience logically.

For example, mention the customer's core concern, describe your instant response, explain how you developed a solution and share how your approach pleased the customer. Mention any praise you received from your employer, if applicable.

Read more: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

3. Compare your interpersonal qualities to the job description

Once you've got an idea of your reaction to an angry customer, you can evaluate which skills might enable you to resolve the situation. For example, verbal communication, empathy and active listening are ideal for telephone conversations. Meanwhile, attention to detail, writing and time management skills support email correspondence, as you can produce clear text promptly.

Next, review the job description to see whether the employer has specified which soft skills they require. For instance, if a hiring manager seeks candidates with conflict resolution and self-motivation, mention how you used these abilities to de-escalate a tense situation to show you align with the role's requirements.

Related: 14 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills at Work

4. Look at the employer's work environment

Next, tailor your answer to align with the workplace's environment, as some roles may involve working with customers directly, whereas others use instant messaging, email, mail or telephone correspondence. Mentioning skills and examples that show you thrive in that environment may impress employers and suggests you can have a smooth transition into the new role. For example, employers seeking call center representatives may value self-motivation, patience and active listening to show you can maintain a productive telephone conversation, despite the customer's frustration.

Related: What Are Keywords In Job Applications?

5. Prepare notes that support your answer

Write the main points you want to cover digitally or in a notebook and memorize them before your interview. As employers may analyze your reaction to handling questions under pressure, rehearsing your response several times increases your chances of delivering a coherent, detailed response that mentions the skills they may seek. Consider asking a friend, relative or mentor to hold a mock interview with you so that you can practice multiple answers in the same meeting.

Related: How To Prepare for a Mock Interview

Example answers

Here are three example answers that link to various customer-facing roles for perspective in different workplaces:

Receptionist example

A receptionist may greet customers verbally and liaise with prospective visitors in writing or via telephone. Here's an example response:

Example: "I have considerable experience handling direct complaints over the telephone as a receptionist. When speaking with frustrated customers, I recognized I sorely rely on verbal communication and active listening skills to manage the situation. Therefore, I would use patience to let the customer speak, making sure I didn't interrupt them. I'd use multitasking skills to make notes while they spoke, so I could revisit certain points for clarification to show I took their complaints seriously.

I would then use clear, concise language to apologize for causing distress and outline a course of action to rectify the situation. I'd then ask for feedback on the resolution so the customer knows the company values their opinion."

Related: Key Benefits of Customer Complaints: How To Write an Effective Response

Server example

As a server, you typically oversee customers' dining experiences and manage telephone or email inquiries. Here's an example answer:

Example: "I would resolve conflict with compassion, calmness and logic. During my previous serving role at Green Door Cuisine, I faced an angry customer expressing frustration after receiving the wrong order. I actively listened to their feelings and de-escalated the complaint by sincerely apologizing for the situation. Next, I reassured the customer that, as a team, we'd do what it took to rectify the situation. They appreciated the accountability we took.

After listening to the customer, I realized they attended the restaurant regularly, so I spoke with my manager and proposed we offer them a refund and a free main meal gift card to show we value their visits. My manager agreed. I relayed my solution to the customer, who accepted. As they left, they expressed gratitude for responding to the situation proactively."

Related: How To Deal With Angry Customers (With Examples and Tips)

Retail assistant example

As a retail assistant, you typically operate on the shop floor and behind the cash register, meaning you have direct contact with customers while browsing products or making purchases. Here's an example:

Example: "First, I would use active listening to identify key details in the customer's speech, helping me evaluate their main concern. Once I understand why they're expressing frustration, I'd show empathy so they know I, and the workplace I'm representing, genuinely care. Next, I'd use my understanding of the retailer's policy to discuss potential solutions according to their needs. Giving them options when possible could put the customer in control of the outcome and lets them pick a solution that works best for them."

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