The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations

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The worst customer situations demand more of front-line employees than good intentions and the right attitude. These kinds of issues can send seasoned service professionals into red alert, and require the communication skills of a crisis counselor.

The Customer Service Survival Kit explains how to use the right words to turn volatile scenarios into calm and productive customer encounters. Anyone can learn this delicate art with the book’s blend of clear techniques, lessons from behavioral science, case studies, situation-specific advice, and practice exercises. Readers will discover:

• The power of leaning into criticism

• Trigger phrases that can make bad situations worse

• The secret to helping people feel deeply heard in a crisis

• How to use the divide-and-conquer approach to safely deliver bad news

• Indispensable problem-solving tools

• How to become immune to intimidation

• How to wrap up transactions so that customers are happy

• And more!

Best yet, learning to handle worst-case scenarios has the spillover effect of boosting the skills and confidence needed to deal effectively with ANY customer—the key to radical improvements in every organization.


Uh-oh! You know that panicked feeling when the customer is not just displeased or unhappy, but angry. Maybe even furious. And you know that the usual customer service protocols of courtesy and apologizing don’t help in these red-alert situations.

The Customer Service Survival Kit by Richard S. Gallagher is the first book packed with specific, step-by-step communication tactics tailored to steer potential disasters into calm, mutually agreeable solutions. Drawing from procedures rooted in behavioral science and used by crisis counselors and hostage negotiators, Gallagher explains:

• How to defuse anger by “leaning into” criticism

• Which well-intentioned “trigger phrases” make a bad situation worse

• The secret to making upset customers feel deeply heard

• A simple divide-and-conquer approach to delivering bad news

• What to say when a situation is your fault, and what to say when it isn’t

Companies that have implemented Gallagher’s principles have reaped the benefits in customer satisfaction rates, turnover levels, and sales. Illustrated by numerous examples and supported by practice exercises, The Customer Service Survival Kit will eliminate the fear of conflict and improve confidence and customer relations across the board.


“This brilliant book is a page-turner. Richard Gallagher gives captivating explanations of more than just what to say to upset customers: he tells you why to say it, when, and how. It’s a must-read for anyone who serves customers.”

Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, authors, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

“One of the most overlooked parts of providing great customer service is addressing the emotional state and needs of your customers—regardless of the ‘facts’ of the situation. Listen to Rich and you’ll nail this crucial aspect of service—and greatly enhance your company’s performance.”

Micah Solomon, author, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

Richard S. Gallagher, MA MFT, is a former customer support executive, practicing psychotherapist, and author of numerous books on customer service and communications skills. He has trained over 20,000 people on how to handle their most difficult situations with customers and others, and is one of the nation’s leading experts on workplace communications skills. See his website at

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