Handling an Irate Client : Protocol Consultants International

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Handling an Irate Client

by Judith Bowman on 03/25/15

Coming face-to-face, tête-à-tête with an irate client can be daunting, yet this potentially volatile situation presents an opportunity to distinguish yourself at your highest skill set.  

An irate client is essentially saying, “give me attention!”  Therefore, we say, “give it to them!” Kill them with kindness.

Immediately establish yourself as the consummate professional, in Control of the situation. Exude calm and confidence through voice and body language as you endeavor to establish Trust.  



  • Greet from a standing position.  You do not want to be in the position of sitting while they stand essentially looking down on you.

    Ref:  peace talks in 1953 with North Koreans:  The North Koreans, who are a shorter people, strategically positioned North Americans on a lower level in a sloping amphitheater in North Korea.  North Koreans sat on a higher level and whenever North Americans would address North Koreans they would look up to them.  Whenever North Koreans would address Americans they would look down on them, so to speak.  Physical positioning is important and subliminally powerful.
  • Encourage them to sit.  Sit after they are seated and sit the way they do.  Become chameleon-like, in order to adapt and subtly let them know you are “with them”… you are relating to them.
  • Listen with your eyes (and ears.)  Be an active listener.
  • Validate them and say “I understand.”
  • Show sympathy for their frustration.  Say, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.”
  • Empathize.  Even though this may have never happened to you, say you have experienced the same type of thing; share a story to show you relate.
  • Thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  • Summarize what you have heard and play it back to them.

You are sincere and respectful.

Try to maintain a sense of humor (it’s the American way!) and keep things in perspective. Think:  John F. Kennedy. As President, JFK was renowned for his ability to diffuse tense situations especially with the clamming press with whom he endeared himself by his skillful use of humor.

Give a realistic estimate of when you will respond (should research be required.)  Bring them to agreement; honor promised time frame ... you building Trust.

Offer a genuine apology, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.” 

If you have a solution, offer this.



  • lower yourself or your standards.
  • return rudeness or vulgarity.
  • argue. Be the better person.
  • accept verbal abuse. 


If you are unable to satisfactorily remedy the situation, bring in a superior. 

Thank them for the opportunity to try to correct the situation.  End on a positive note.  You, your company will be remembered positively.

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