top of page

4 Strategies to Satisfy Angry Guests

Guests will get frustrated.  They will complain at some point about lackluster service or products.  They will end up speaking to you or your team about why they are upset and what they want to make up for it.

And sometimes they are even right.

The one thing you have to prepare yourself and your team for is that Guests who are dissatisfied will run the gamut from those who are mildly irritated to those who have absolutely turned their exasperation up to 11.  Some Guests are absolutely reasonable about large mistakes and others will overreact to what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small inconvenience.

I was once standing in line at a Walt Disney World Resort concierge desk to buy park tickets, and I listened to a Guest scream and complain that it was raining and what was the Cast Member going to do about that?  After all, they did have a bubble over the Magic Kingdom for just such an eventuality right?

So it begins by being aware that our Guests are individuals and that some of them will be rude, coarse, and not very nice at times. That understanding will help you deal with Guests who are more angry than your typical dissatisfied Customer.

Remember, the goal is to take care of Guests, but also to minimize the impact on your business as a whole.  Upset Guests talk to their circle of influence and can damage your reputation – really angry Guests make it their life’s work to tell the world you shouldn’t be trusted with their business.

The four steps we’ll be discussing are very much related to service recovery – but with a twist.  They will take the same types of skills, but they also will need a few adjustments to best serve an angry Guest.

Use service recovery.

Remember that there are proven steps to deal with Guests who are unsatisfied.  You should ensure that your teams know exactly what to do and work the plan whenever there is a Guest issue or concern.  The goal is to make sure that Guests leave happy even if something wasn’t quite up to scratch during their visit.  For more information on building your own recovery program, check out my previous article.  There are many great programs that you can look to such as HEART and HEAR.

 The basic steps of service recovery ensure that you listen to your Guest, that you apologize, that you make it right, and that you thank them for their time.

Train your team – and know when to step in

Make sure that your team understands the steps of service recovery and that you have allowed them to practice.  When they are able to resolve issues without involving leaders, that can help diffuse the situation.  But if a Guest goes over the top, you will need to step in.  This will mean you have take control of the situation, but remain calm along the way.  Use your very best active listening skills and show empathy for the Guest concern.  When you demonstrate that you really do understand how they feel that can help get them to calm down a bit.

You also need to be sure that if you step in to help, that you team member understands afterward why you did so.  You can’t ride in on a white horse and then not close the loop with them.  Help them to adopt some of the skills you used, follow up on any miscues they may have made that led to the Guest becoming upset, and reinforce that you are there to help.  Explaining the process and your steps of recovery will help them understand why you stepped in.

Own the apology

Too often apologies from businesses sounds something like “I’m sorry but. . .”  That is a sure fire way to light the fuse on an upset Guest.  If you are sincere, you really can’t apologize enough.  Along with that apology, find out what is needed to make things right.  Sometimes Guests just want an ear to bend, other times a replacement product, and sometimes it is a bit more.  But you can’t take steps that you haven’t defined, so be kind and straightforward when apologizing.  Also, as you are apologizing, be aware of your body language – use good eye contact and posture – and try not to put a counter or table between you and your Guest.

37% of Guests are satisfied when something of monetary value is offered during service recovery 74% are satisfied when an apology is added -Source:  Carey School of Business (via

Take a breath after the interaction

There is something to be said for protecting your own mental health when it comes to  dealing with upset Guests.  They can say some pretty nasty things and that can get in your head a little.  Make sure that you take some time for yourself if you’ve had a taxing interaction.  You might have done a great job resolving the issue, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t take a toll.  You might just find a moment to take a breath, grab a bottle of water, vent to a trusted colleague (outside of the Guest POV), or indulge in a comfort food.  Whatever it takes to get your game face back on and be ready to serve the next Guest.

This is also an important point to remember for your team.  They are just as stressed out by angry Customers as you are – maybe even more so as they might be worried about how you’ll react as their leader.  So take time to follow up with them afterwards as well and afford them the chance to calm down before serving their next Guest.

Angry Guests are a fact of life in any business that serves people.  Knowing how to handle service miscues, and by extension, Guests who may become angry, can help minimize the impact on your team and your bottom line.

So remember, treat even those Guests who get angry or upset like cherished friends.


Tony Johnson

-Guest Experience Leader-

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page