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Anger Management

How to deal with irate customers without losing your cool

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This story appears in the April 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Your grand opening is well underway when a customer starts pitching a fit at the checkout counter. Don't let this person's hysterical ranting scare off the other customers, says Andra Medea, author of Conflict Unraveled: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families. When unruly customers are really worked up, they're not even hearing you, she says. Lower the tone of your voice, take the expression off your face, and place your palms on the desk to project authority. An uncomfortable smile, backing away and using a high-pitched voice will project nervousness and cause the customer to be more aggressive, says Medea.

Take a deep breath, and ask questions. "Get them to construct a sequence for you," says Medea. Avoid words like should--say things like, "I'm here to help." Walking a short distance with a person can also help calm him or her down. Then outline how you'll deal with the problem.

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