6 Tips for Cooling Down after Dealing with a Stressful Customer


You’ve had enough.

Another angry customer shouted and cursed at you while you were just trying to help, leaving you without an apology.

But you took it all in with a smile. You responded politely to the harsh comments and offered sympathy while receiving none in return. Now that the customer is gone, you're left with a sour aftertaste.

Negative customers can really grind your gears. Their tone of voice, demands and curses can make you just want to curl up and forget about the world. But you have other customers to support. You need your cool and best attitude to do so. And you need to regain it fast.

Here are some tips on how to do that.

TIP 1. Cut Yourself Some Slack

One of the worst things you can do after a stressful customer encounter is to feel guilty about how you handled the situation. The customer was already aggravated when they contacted you and the situation isn’t always in your hands.

Don't blame yourself for feeling angry either. After all, they treated you with disrespect and your reaction is understandable. Instead of beating yourself up over it, look at your reactions with kindness and understanding. Show some self-compassion. It helps.

photograph picture of the word chill painted on a stone wall

This research defines self-compassion as such:

“Self-compassion entails being kind toward oneself in instances of pain or failure; perceiving ones experiences as part of the larger human experience; and holding painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness”.

It also points out that self-compassionate people are happier, more optimistic, less depressed and overall more successful.

So, cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself.

TIP 2: Do a Familiar Routine

Negative customer encounters are stressful because they force you into heavy decision-making.

While you're negotiating with and trying to help an aggravated customer, your brain analyses various scenarios to come up with the best course of action. It chooses the best response and makes plans for next moves, all while being vigilant about what's currently happening.

And subconsciously it's thinking about what's going to happen if you mess things up. It's no surprise that after such a call you're feeling not only mentally down but also worn out physically.

photograph picture of coffee and cookies on a table

The best way to relieve such tension is by switching to a familiar routine. Routines save you from making decisions, letting your mind switch off for a while. They allow you to do things more mindlessly and help bring relief after a stressful situation.

TIP 3: Do Something Interesting for a Few Minutes

Studies show that working on your interests refills your energy levels . Therefore, if you can, step away from your desk and work on something that interests you for a while.

But keep in mind that interesting does not necessary equal pleasant or fun. Eating tasty food is pleasant but it probably won't be that interesting. Goofing off with a co-worker a bit might be fun but again, it's probably not that interesting.

Find an activity that interests you and work on it for a few minutes.

If you love composing music, download a synthesizer or other instrument app on your phone and work on a new song. Or if you love drawing, grab a sketchbook and work on a new image.

photograph picture of ventilation grid in a wall

TIP 4: Vent Off

This technique is as old as the world and it works.

If you had a particularly traumatic customer interaction, don't be afraid to go to your manager to vent off. Sometimes there's just no point in holding your emotions. And it's your manager's role to also facilitate letting go of your frustration.

TIP 5: Breathe

Did you notice that almost all relaxation techniques are based on your breathing? It comes as no surprise - conscious breathing lowers your heart rate, calms you down and relieves physical body strain.

If you’ve just experienced a stressful customer encounter, try this simple exercise:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Hold it for a few seconds and then let it out slowly.
  3. Try counting to 10 as you’re breathing out.

You should feel the tension and stress leaving your body. Repeat this exercise 3-4 times.

TIP 6: Massage Your Neck

When you're under stress or pressure, tension tends to accumulate in your neck, literally stifling your work performance. You can relieve this by sending it down your body.

Here are few simple exercises that can be done at your desk:

  1. Fold your hands over your shoulders. Exhale and let your head drop back while you squeeze your fingers towards your palms. Glide from the muscles of your back and shoulders towards your neck.

  2. Rest your elbows on the desk. Drop your head forward slightly and massage your neck making small and deep circles and moving up.

  3. Interlace your fingers and place both hands like that on the back of your head. Next, drop your head letting the weight of your arms and elbow to pull it gently down to stretch muscles of your neck.
photograph picture of two women woman stretching on a park bench

When you’re working in service, there’s no escape from stressful customer encounters. It doesn’t matter what service channel you work with, be it phone, live chat or email. You will always get in contact with customers that won’t treat you fairly.

And just as much as you should learn how to deal with them, you should also know how to cool down after a stressful situation to be in good mental shape for your next challenge.