In today’s business English lesson, I’ll teach you useful phrases to resolve conflict at work. I’ll also teach you phrases that can be used to calm down angry customers or clients.

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Resolve Conflict at Work

Step 1 – Listen

Listen to your angry customer or client. You need to make sure that you understand their problem. Let them tell you what happened without interrupting or contradicting them. Simply listen. That’s all you need to do at this stage.

Step 2 – Acknowledge

You now need to acknowledge that your customer or client has had a negative experience. You don’t have to agree with them or believe that everything they have told you is true. However, you do need to acknowledge that something happened to make them feel this way.

Step 3 – Consider Apologising

After a negative experience, dissatisfied customers rarely receive an apology from the business/person at fault. Most people ‘worm their way out’ (idiom) of apologising because they don’t want to accept any blame for what went wrong, as doing so could get them into trouble.

If customer and client satisfaction is a priority in your business, then apologising to the angry customer is the best way to resolve the conflict.

Step 4 – Promise to Do Better

The last step is to promise to do better in the future. This one is only relevant if you’re going to have an ongoing relationship with that customer or client. If their experience was a very negative one, the angry customer is unlikely to return. In this case, promising to do better in the future only means you will improve the service for the next customer who comes along. How would you react to a company saying they will do better for the next customer? It may add ‘fuel to the fire’ (idiom) by provoking even more anger towards you and/or the company.

How to Deal with Angry Customers

Firstly, your angry customer needs time to calm down. A very emotional or frustrated person can’t think clearly or calmly enough to resolve the situation. Be cautious of asking them to calm down or to stop shouting, as this may make things even worse.

To resolve conflict, your angry customer must first calm down.

Your angry customer also needs to ‘feel heard’. Feeling heard is much more than just being listened to. When an angry customer feels heard by you, it means you understand their frustration.

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Resolving Conflict: Responsibility and Accountability

Accountability is a core value for providing good customer service. It can be as simple as saying “Yes, I/my company made a mistake”, or “The software was down; this was the reason that [we lost your booking]. I am very sorry this happened”.

Next, we are going to look at useful phrases to use to resolve conflict with angry customers or clients.

Phrases for Resolving Conflict with Angry Customers

“I’m going to take care of this personally”
Your angry customer or client really wants to hear this statement! It means you are going to deal with their problem, and that you will take personal responsibility for fixing it.

“I’ve listened to everything you’ve said, and I can see there is room for improvement”
This is a softer way of saying, “Yes, we made a mistake”. It makes your angry customer feel heard. This is a way of subtly acknowledging the mistake without outright admitting that someone messed up.

“How can I go about solving this for you?”
Perhaps you don’t know what your angry customer wants you to do about the issue. If so, you can use this phrase to find out. When you ‘go about doing [something]’ (phrasal verb), you begin the process of doing something. *Phrasal verbs are used frequently by native speakers because they help to soften the message.

“I’ve listened to everything you’ve said and fully taken it on board”
This phrase is a powerful, calming sentence to use with an angry customer or client because it allows your customer to feel deeply heard.

“I’m sorry”
Apologising to the customer is a brave yet powerful step. If you have the type of job that allows you to take ownership of your mistakes, then go ahead and apologise sometimes!

I’m sorry that I/we let you down”
This can be even more powerful than a simple apology. Generally, people working for large businesses and corporations don’t like to admit their mistakes. However, small business owners can’t afford to be proud when dealing with customers, and will therefore need to apologise when it is merited. Note: when you ‘let [someone] down’ (phrasal verb), you disappoint them.

“I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this caused”
This is a formal apology you can use to apologise for wasting someone’s time or causing them a lot of hassle. An alternative formal phrase that is often used in business emails is, “apologies for the inconvenience”.

“Let me put things right”
This is an action sentence that assures your customer that you are going to fix the problem. This phrase sounds like you are taking charge of the situation.

Thank you for reading and/or watching this lesson. Now you know what to say the next time you need to calm down a stressful situation at work!


Extend Your Learning with More Business English Lessons

▶︎ Learn advanced vocabulary about Pay and Salary in the UK.

▶︎ Learn How to Give Constructive Criticism.

▶︎ Learn confident, professional English by taking my Business English Vocabulary course.

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Author

Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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