Irate Customer, De-escalation techniques, Customer Service Training, Melissa Folette, Customer Service

De-escalation Techniques Every Employee Should Know

Employees are the first line of defense against defusing an angry customer. But, too often, they lack the basic de-escalation techniques required to keep a situation from getting worse.

For the sake of your employees, yourself, and your business, it’s important to notice the signs of an impending problem and find a solution as quickly and calmly as possible.

The de-escalation technique known as C.L.A.P. teaches to act Calmly, Listen, Acknowledge and Provide a plan. With these four principles, you and your staff will be equipped to handle almost any situation an angry customer throws your way. 

De escalation, irate customers, customer service training, customer service, Melissa Folette, Content Writer


Remaining calm in a tense situation takes practice. Especially when someone is yelling or becoming increasingly distressed. As hard as it may be, keeping your cool under fire is one of the most effective de-escalation techniques you can have.

  • Keep your voice neutral
    • This will aid in keeping your own emotions in check
  • Put on a poker face
    • Rolling your eyes or wagging your eyebrows will not reduce your customer’s fury
  • Breathe through your nose
    • Mouth breathing increases your heartrate
    • This may escalate the problem further
  • Be polite
    • Only an irrational person will continue a word war with a polite person
    • Being rude or disrespectful will only hurt your cause


It’s easy to hear someone speak, but it takes work to actually listen to what they are saying. Take time to genuinely hear your customer’s complaint. Don’t rush them or interrupt their speech. Talking over them will create more tension in an already harsh atmosphere.

  • Paraphrase what the customer has said and repeat it back to them.
    • This insures you are trying to understand their issue
  • Show empathy toward their dilemma
    • This is not an admission of guilt on your part. But rather an attempt to show you care that they are upset
  • Use words like ‘we’ or ‘us’ rather than ‘you’ or ‘I’
    • This creates the sense that you are on their ‘team’ in trying to fix the issue


Acknowledge there is an issue. This is not to infer you or your business is at fault. It is to acknowledge your customer’s complaint and that you will try to fix it. 

Also acknowledge that nothing the customer says should be taken personally. This is hard to do most of the time. But if you want to have a positive outcome, leave your emotions out of the situation.

 If you’ve listened to their story, you may have picked up on the real reason for the complaint.

It could be something simple and fixable such as a wrong color or size.

However, it may be something deeper such as a past experience with another employee that still leaves a bad vibe. 

Or it could be something entirely out of your control all together. 

The customer could simply be having a bad day and is taking it out on you. 

Because of pride, acknowledgement may be one of the more difficult de-escalation techniques to remember. And, it’s understandable. Especially when the reason you have an angry customer may not even be your fault. 

But, in an effort to save your reputation, acknowledging your customer’s issue is the best practice. 

Provide a Plan

Despite the real reason your customer is upset, you need to provide a plan to fix whatever is troubling them. Even if the customer refuses your offer, you owe it to your business to make a genuine effort. 

  • Can the issue be fixed?
    • What can be done?
    • What can you offer instead?
    • Does your store offer refunds or store credits?
    • Will any of this provide relief to your customer’s problem?
  • Include the customer in your planning
    • This again shows your willingness to go above and beyond to resolve the issue
  • Have the customer’s best interest at heart

C.L.A.P. De-escalation techniques

Unfortunately, angry customers make even the brightest days dark and gray. Hopefully, you and your employees are not put into this position regularly.

If so, you may want to focus a lot of time on customer service and management training.

While not every issue can be resolved, most of the time, simply remaining calm, listening, acknowledging the issue, and providing a plan, can resolve a situation.

It’s important for your staff to know what to do, when to speak, and when to listen. With consistent customer service training on product knowledge, store procedures, and providing excellent customer experience, you can reduce the chances of encountering an irate customer

Would you like more information on de-escalation techniques or customer service training?

“It’s my pleasure to help small businesses connect with customers; one word at a time”     – Melissa Folette

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