Dealing with an angry customer is never pleasant, but you can take steps to de-escalate or defuse a heated conversation. Focus on how you can help the customer resolve the problem that's upsetting him. If the customer sees you as an ally instead of an enemy, he will be much more likely to listen to you and let you assist him.

Listen and Empathize

The worst thing you can do when dealing with an irate customer is to not listen or empathize. In our eagerness to quell a potentially explosive situation, we may be inclined to talk more than we should or be dismissive, hoping the customer will go away. Instead, encourage the customer to vent. This allows you to understand what the specific problem is and might give you ideas for how to fix it. Try not to interrupt the customer as she explains the problem, as this can make her more upset.

Be Objective

Even if it's clear from the explanation that the customer or an employee is at fault, don't blame anyone. Your role in de-escalating a volatile situation is not to assign blame but to resolve the problem so the customer feels he's being taken seriously and will continue doing business with your company. A safe and objective response after hearing an explanation of events might be, "Mr. Griffin, I am so sorry for what you've experienced today. I promise we will work with you to try to resolve this to your satisfaction."

Be Helpful

The irate customer has to feel as if she is not wasting her time with you. Even if you do not have the power to resolve the conflict, ensure the customer that you will do everything in your power to help. Then consult your supervisor for the best way to handle the problem. If you have the authority to resolve the matter on your own, do so within your company's guidelines. It is better to promise less than what is be expected and then exceed the customer's expectations than to do the opposite. In escalated situations, to more than the minimum to calm and please the customer.

Solve the Problem

Ask the customer if the action your company will take solves the problem to his satisfaction. What you consider a fix might not appear that way to the customer. Get mutual consensus on a satisfying solution before you proceed. Once the problem is solved, follow up with the customer to see if he is likely to continue patronizing your business. Even if the answer is no, you will have left the customer with a better impression than if you had done nothing.