The right words and phrases to use with an angry customer
When it comes to calming angry customers, a skilful use of language by your agents could be very important. Here, we look into the words and phrases most likely to defuse the situation and bring about a mutually agreeable reconciliation.
Read on for our analysis of the four main customer personality types, and our list of suggested phrases for tackling these most difficult of characters. Of course, every customer is unique, and some may show traces of two or more of the profiles below. In these cases, a calculated mix of the phrases listed could help to pacify the caller.
More often than not, this interesting caller will have no legitimate grievance against your enterprise. Rather, he or she will have suffered a recent personal strain and, without anybody else to vent to, will turn to taking their grievance out on your staff. This frequently involves amplifying the most minor of complaints right out of proportion.
This type of caller is among the most frustrating for a contact centre agent; he or she will likely have encountered legitimately furious customers in the past, and may feel that to “mollycoddle” their Offloader is a waste of time and energy. Even so, the caller should be taken as seriously as possible, and formally empathetic language should be used at all times.
The following is a list of phrases best suited to this type of customer; note that the words of particular importance have been highlighted – for best results, these should be repeated at various points throughout the conversation.
Words and Phrases:
- “I’m so sorry that you feel this way, Mrs Brown…”
- “As a solution, may I suggest that…?”
- “What I’ll do right now is…”
- “We really do appreciate this feedback, Mrs Brown…”
- “May I arrange for an update call, at a time most convenient for you?”
The Legitimate Grievance
Mistakes happen; it’s a fact of life, and it’s forgiveable. But, from time to time, corporations miss their service level agreements by such a margin that even the most experienced of inbound agents has difficulty believing the magnitude of the failing.
The Legitimate Grievance is far and away the most important item discussed on this list. You have severely failed your customer and, should the case be publicised in the media, the ramifications for your business could be serious.
Agents who encounter this sort of complainant should, of course, escalate the call to their nearest team leader without delay. But in the interim, it would do no harm to offer some words of empathetic reassurance…
Words and Phrases:
- “Thank you so much for letting us know about this, Sir/Madam…”
- “I’m so sorry to hear about this, Mrs Brown…”
- “I completely understand how you feel, Sir/Madam…”
- “Thank you so much for your patience/understanding, Mrs Brown…”
- “I will action this for you right away…”
Ah, the Vulgarian: a fascinating specimen, easily identifiable through its signature high pitch and generous use of profanity.
Paradoxical as it sounds, many agents look forward to receiving calls from this sort of customer. The reason? Well, since corporations’ duty of care towards their employees includes protection from client abuse, the rare emergence of the Vulgarian appears to present a good opportunity to terminate the call.
Though no employee should be expected to put up with personal insults, it is industry standard for agents to warn abusive customers at least three times before ending the conversation. Still, there are a series of phrases which can help to restore calm.
Of course, even more important than the language used is the ability of the agent to hold his cool under pressure; needless to say, there can be no excuse for insulting a customer – such an act would constitute gross misconduct, even if done in retaliation. So, along with encouraging professional lingo, school your staff in the emotional side of dealing with obscene callers.
Words and Phrases:
- “I truly understand your concern, Sir/Madam, but unfortunately we cannot tolerate the kind of language you are using right now…”
- “I’m going to do my very best to help you, Mrs Brown…”
- “You seem very upset, Mrs Brown. Would you prefer to continue this conversation through email or post?”
- “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Sir/Madam. Would you like for us to call you back when you feel a little calmer?”
- “I apologise, Mrs Brown, but if you continue to use this language, I will be forced to end this call.”
Easily confused with The Vulgarian, The Threat-Maker is, in fact, a different kettle of chips altogether. Whilst the former’s intention is to insult the call handler into cessation, the latter seeks to obtain appeasement through emotional or even physical intimidation.
Of course, most agents have dealt with enough Threat-Makers to know that, despite their dogged self-conviction, the vast majority of threats levied are as empty as a church on Monday morning. Even so, many telephone staff find this complainant’s tactics the most provocative of any irate caller. As such, it’s important again to remind staff not to react to intimidation; to do so would just give the caller further ammunition, and add weight to a grievance that was, perhaps, formerly spurious.
Sticking to one’s guns is the key to success over the Threat-Maker; offering inappropriate compensation will serve only to encourage future complaints. Moreover, it’s important to remember that, regardless of how unpleasant he or she might be as a person, each and every one of your customers is an essential source of revenue for your business. Agents should strive for a golden mean between level-headed formality and empathy for the customer’s condition.
Words and Phrases:
- “I do understand the inconvenience you’ve faced, Sir/Madam…”
- “Let me see how I can fix this, Mrs Brown…”
- “I recommend that you (insert action here), Sir/Madam, so that I can take further action without delay.”
- “I am more than happy to help you, Mrs Brown…”
- “For the quickest resolution, I would request you to…”
Do you have any tips or phrases which could help to soothe the exasperated caller? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below…
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