What do you do if you’re confronted by an upset client at a trade show? I’ve worked thousands of shows and have dealt with unhappy consumers. Fortunately, it’s only happened a handful of times to me but if it does happen at a show, and it isn’t handled correctly, it can damage your reputation and your show.

What Not to Do with an Upset Client

Let’s start with what not to do.

  • Don’t react in anger. Under no circumstance should you react in anger and attack the customer.
  • Don’t become defensive. It’s a natural reaction to defend yourself and your company, but most of the time defending the business to the agitated purchaser only adds fuel to their fire.
  • You can’t  ignore it. An upset customer isn’t something you can hide from or push off. Handing them the service departments business card and dismissing them will most likely not send them away. It will make it worse.
  • Don’t downplay it. You can’t act like it’s not a big deal because to your patron it is a big deal.
  • Don’t make excuses. The customer doesn’t care that a new installer was sent to their home and botched the installation.
  • Stay away from humor. Regardless if you’re a freaking comedian the customer will not think you’re very funny.
  • Don’t push it off. Telling the exasperated end-user that it’s not your department won’t change a thing. To the customer you represent the company regardless of what department you work in.

2 Keys to Making an Upset Client Happy

“1. Control your body language—if you present aggressive, dismissive, or defensive body language it may not matter WHAT you say. Crossed arms are a defensive posture, making fists and leaning forward can be seen as aggression, and turning away, even partially, as dismissive. All will hinder your communication with an upset client.

2. Control your voice. More is communicated through how you say words than the words you say. Maintaining an even steady tone of voice with little emphasis or inflection is the safest route.” — How to Appease an Upset Customer Face-to-Face

What to Do with an Upset Client at Your Booth

“There’s an old saying, “You can win the argument and lose a friend.” That’s never truer than when dealing with an upset customer. Attempting to argue, defending your position, or downplaying the customers concern seldom leads to resolution—quite the opposite.

Don’t add fuel to their fire by feeding their flame—let it burn out. Defending and arguing only add tender to their fire—you’re feeding right into it, stirring it up, and fanning the flames. Your best strategy may be letting the fire die by letting them get it out of their system. Have you tried to argue with or defend your point to an upset customer—how’d that work for you?” —  How to Appease an Upset Customer Face-to-Face

Attempt to take the upset client aside and away from your booth

This isn’t always possible, but this has worked for me. “May we move over here where there’s less distractions because I want to give you my full attention.” Another method to diffuse the situation is to ask another staff member to take over the booth and then go to the concession area and chat over coffee. People seem less inclined to acrimony and more open to conversation sitting at a table and sharing a beverage.

Listen to them

Don’t interrupt, clear your mind and quit thinking of how you’ll respond. Make eye-contact and listen.  I find it helpful to take notes. If your uncertain as to your customer’s point ask them to explain. Check your understanding by repeating what your client shared, for example, “If I understand what you said it’s that …”

Attempting to “sell” the upset customer on a solution will not work. You must listen to the client to understand their needs and concerns.


Even if you think the client’s anger isn’t justified still apologize. You’re sorry they’re upset for whatever reason whether they’re right or wrong, aren’t you? So, let them know you’re sorry. You can always apologize for them being upset, “I’m sorry you’re upset. The last thing my company wants are disappointed customers.” Take the responsibility for their anger and put it squarely on your shoulders. It’s your responsibility to take their anger away.

Fix It

Find a solution. It might be that your best solution is to gather information, and then contact the department within your organization that can help. And sometimes you may have the answer. I was working a show a few years ago when a booth across from me experienced an irate customer. There were three people staffing, but two had left, leaving one young lady.

As I watched I saw the ruffled customer calm down and eventually smile and shake her hand. Afterwords, I went to her booth and asked how she had appeased the client. She told me that one of the other staffers was the owner of the company and he had told to treat people the way he would, and then he gave her the authority to do so. So, that’s what she did.

She began by listening intently to the customer and then asking what she could do to make him happy. He said he wanted a refund, and she told him that would be fine, she would approve a refund. But she still wanted to fix the problem. The customer said if you’re willing to fix it for no charge I don’t need a refund. In the end the customer thanked her.

I Hope You Never Face an Upset Client 

I hope you never are confronted by a long-faced purchaser at your trade show booth, but if you listen to them, apologize, and do your best to fix their concern, you’ll come out ahead. Once I worked for a company that would ask unhappy customers what they could do to make the customer a raving fan, and then did their best to make it happen. How do you handle upset customers?  Do you have a plan? Leave a comment if you’d like to talk about this. Have a great day!

Photo Credit:  https://unsplash.com/photos/5otlbgWJlLs