5 Techniques for Calming Angry Clients

Have you been ruffled by a call from a frustrated client? Mitch Ribak knows how you feel.

April 1, 2011

Mitch Ribak, broker at Tropical Realty of Suntree Inc. in Melbourne, Fla., recently had to face a client who said that a sales associate promised he could close on the sale of his home the same day he closed on the purchase of a foreclosed property—a promise that wasn’t panning out. Ribak offers five tips for smoothing ruffled feathers.

  1. Face the situation immediately. Don’t avoid an angry client. "Once you start running away, the client’s anger builds," says Ribak. "If you confront anger immediately, it’s easier to dissolve."
  2. Ask for an in-person meeting. Ribak doesn’t like phone conversations. "I can’t use mannerisms or show sympathy easily on the phone," he explains. "I say, ‘What I’d really like to do is set up a face-to-face meeting so that I can resolve this problem for you. That’s my job.’ Usually, that calms people down."
  3. Take control. Be sympathetic but firm. "A lot has to do with your voice," he says. "If you sound scared, clients will eat you up and take advantage of you. In this case, the client came in and threw his keys on my desk," explains Ribak. "I said, ‘Until you talk to me like an adult, we’re not going to have a discussion.’ If I hadn’t been able to take control of that client, I wouldn’t have been able to resolve anything."
  4. Admit mistakes, even if none were made. "Sometimes you’ve got to agree with people to get where you want to go," says Ribak. "Even though the client probably heard about the closings wrong from my sales associate, I said, ‘It’s unlike Debbie to say something like that, but I’m sure she thought she could do that.’"
  5. Listen to your client’s concerns. Ask your client to explain the problem. Say: "Let’s go step by step over what happened. I just heard about this, so I don’t know the whole story." Ribak learned the client had terminal cancer, and his anger was coming out of his fear that he wouldn’t be able to secure his wife’s financial future. "Once I understood that, it went from him being angry to me supporting him." Both properties closed on the same day.