The right words and phrases to use with an angry customer

Views - 254,129

cartton of angry person shouting with big letters coming out of his mouth

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.

The Offloader

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…”

The Vulgarian

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.”

The Threat-Maker

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…”

George Dixon

Do you have any tips or phrases which could help to soothe the exasperated caller? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below…

5 Sep 2012 - Filed under Management , , ,

Views - 254,129

Liked this article? Why not get our free newsletter.

Comments on: The right words and phrases to use with an angry customer

Contrary to the old adage that the customer is always right, I would modernise this and say that ‘the customer is not always right, but is always the customer’

Posted by Ian — 5 Sep @ 2:10 pm

Simply listening to some of the callers listed is a useful tactic. However listening alone is not enough and the agent should summarise the callers words back to them. This has the effect of actively demonstrating you care, it can slow the conversation down (callers can’t be angry and talk slowly!) which allows a reasonable conversation to occur and a solution to be worked out.

Posted by Neil France — 6 Sep @ 11:57 am

Any words you use will be more or less effective depending on whether you use the right voice sound as you say them. The angry callers can only be one of three ego types: Directive (sounds telling), Logical (sounds sharing) or Passionate (sounds asking). Each state has two positive, neutral or negative sub sounds and the angry caller will be using the negative ones. Say it wrong and you will wind them up even more but you can say almost anything you like so long as you apply the emotional formula right.

Posted by Simon Bell — 6 Sep @ 12:01 pm

I’m not so sure about “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Sir/Madam. Would you like for us to call you back when you feel a little calmer?” seems a little too patronising to me and think it could make the caller irate

Otherwise, this is a really sound article. A lot of interesting stuff to relay in training. Thanks!

Posted by Sean — 6 Sep @ 2:50 pm

A good read. Shared this with my advisors today. Loved the turn of phrase left by Ian as did the advisors when we read it together. Keep these great tips coming.

Posted by Alistair James Back — 6 Sep @ 3:34 pm

Great article thanks, certainly gives a different dimension to approaching complaints. We train out 3 steps – Respond and listen, Show appropriate empathy and Take ownership.

Posted by Lee Newbould — 11 Sep @ 9:12 am

“I am so sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you” -

Posted by Patty — 19 Dec @ 1:36 am

Thank you!

Posted by Hugo — 29 Dec @ 4:11 pm

Liked the article, my piece of advice on this subject is not to take it personal – remember the customer is angry at the situation not you as a perso. As stated in the 99 ways article ‘keep calm and carry on ‘ applies to these situations too.

Posted by Cath — 3 Jan @ 5:07 pm

We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

Posted by poloma — 22 Jan @ 2:20 am

Well designed good job done

Posted by Skariah Thomas — 3 Apr @ 12:39 pm

I understand sir/madam and feel where you are coming from. Now what i can do for you is i can speak to a team leader to see what options we have as i have found 2 minds are better than one and i can then advise you of what you need to do. I want to help you in the best possible way i have felt your frustration with the situation and we need to resolve this right away. I will be back in a momement. Do you mind waiting ? (go see your team leader) Thank you for patience sir/madam what we have found is that we can… (continue conversation) If all else fails escalate the call. Cheers

Posted by SoundLad — 21 Apr @ 8:51 pm

“The customer is always right”
The customer IS always right… At least in their own head.
When was the last time that you entered an argument with a perfect stranger that you have never met before when you knew from the offset that you were wrong?
The answer…
Never.
It simply doesn’t happen.
The customer is not always right, but they believe in their own head that they ARE right.

In instances such as this it is important to show empathy with what the customer is saying, even agreement – “if that happened to me, I would also be annoyed” but what we need to concentrate on is stating that we are acknowledging that we understand the customer.

Nobody argues if someone agrees with them.

Do we need to always apologise?
No!
Why put ourselves on the back footing all of the time?
Customers believe that they expect an apology. Again… very few customers in my experience call up for an apology… they call up to have the issue resolved.
Apologies often result in the advisor feeling as if the customer has the upper hand.
Let’s stop this parent / child customer / advisor relationship.
Advisors are adults and deserve to be treated as such.
Some of the power can be re-gained by using empowering phrases such as “Thank you for telling us about this”
Thank the customer for what they are doing – acknowledging their perseverance rather than apologise and acknowledge our own servitude.
Maybe then we can reverse the culture of
“he who shouts the loudest gets what he wants”

Posted by Ross — 22 Apr @ 6:03 pm

No the customer may not be right but the customer is always the customer. :) Remember the person on the end of the phone is not shouting at you. Dont take it personally. They are shouting at the business you work for. So sit back relax and let the customer rant and rave because if you take into account they are shouting at you all the time then you shouldnt be in the call centre business. So remember always stay calm and you’ll shine and meet all your KPI’s :)

Posted by SoundLad — 23 Apr @ 8:49 pm

The customer is not always right, but they are NEVER wrong.
it is critical the staff don’t make the customer feel less than or at worst silly for an opinion or thought…

Posted by Peter — 24 Apr @ 3:07 am

A customer is always a customer. You have to make them feel that you understand them no matter what it takes. YOU HAVE TO TAKE OWNERSHIP IN EVERY CALL. :)

Posted by alyssa — 9 May @ 2:04 pm

I really appreciate the work here. This is very helpful specially when we need examples of phrases to be used in some difficult customer handling scenarios. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Posted by Rajiv — 11 May @ 11:00 pm

My 2 tips are as follows: When you have a bad call and feel the customer was very difficult to deal with; put that call behind you. You cant do anything about the call once it is over. Its just like a turnover in a game of sports, it has happened and now you move on from it. :) #2: “Don’t become cynical” because the situation that has happened to the customer is very real even though it may be a situation we deal with every day in our calls. :)

Posted by Tracy — 27 May @ 10:33 pm

If i am on your shoes i will also be upset if ( Concern) but let me check my resources to make your day better .

Posted by Ice — 8 Oct @ 3:43 am

It will be a great pleasure to assist you today.

Posted by Ms.Black — 8 Oct @ 3:58 am

I know customers can be real jerks sometimes and it seem like you’ve fought a war for them and not good enough to them. There hand is always out for something more. But, don’t let it get to you, “Lay down the law” of your department and then tell them what you can do for them; that way your not getting there false hopes for something too far away.
Its not your fault for anything that’s going in there life that may or may not cause the issue, but turn it around and say, “if I was in your shoes, I probably feel the same way.” I am not telling you to kiss **, I am telling you to do not get emotional involved. Let them rave and kick and scream about the stitution and keep the same tone with a smile and don’t change a thing.
Respect, empathy, tone, enegry, needs, teamwork, identify, opimistic, negitate; spells Retention! No better customer service agent then a retention agent, you handle the call to the best you can and then pass to a different department that resolves the issues; and its usually the retention agent who do because there on at least a sup level skills on handle it better then normal, take my word for it because its the truth and the is gonna hurt when told. “Lay down the law” is my metto ;)

Posted by Tyrrea — 10 Dec @ 7:57 am

i know how frustrating it can be. I can assure you that i’m doing my best to stay on the top of the situation as i’m looking for all possible means to make things happen to you….

im sorry to hear that mr/ms.____ you must have been really upset with the irregularities but rest assure that i will verify this issue immediately and look for all possible solution to help you address your concern.

Posted by chabbyMe — 20 Jan @ 7:50 am

Sorry, sometimes the customer IS shouting at the poor sap who answers the phone and it is personal. There are a few manipulative clients who realize they have all the power as the customer and you, low employee answering the phone, have to take their abuse, accept and not refute their wild accusations that you are somehow to blame for the actions of your higher-ups. They win and are happy if they hear you become tearful as you choke out your “I am sorry you feel this way” in the midst of their rants that never pause. This way they can later say you “talked over them”, BTW. I swear they KNOW EXACTLY what they are doing.

Are you kidding??? Telling them that “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Sir/Madam. Would you like for us to call you back when you feel a little calmer” would be like throwing a bomb into a fire.

This special type of irate will then totally turn it around and accuse you of being the person who was shouting and being disrespectful. This happens to me at least a half dozen times a year. Lucky for me there are nearby witnesses to these instances as we all sit next to each other. The higher-ups are able to determine that the complaining client is not only mentally unstable but dishonest.

These irate power trippers get their accounts marked with ****’s so we know to never engage them or try to help them immediately (just sets up the slap in the face, alas( and force the to leave all calls in the voicemail of the higher-ups (in our case, Doctors and RNs) to whom they act respectfully and sweetly to over the phone.

Thank god most of our patients are nice, but the ones that are not are are REALLY not nice.

Posted by Works at a PCP — 2 Feb @ 2:17 am

I really learned a lot fromv the articles above…Im gonna apply some of them to my calls.

Posted by beyonce — 22 Apr @ 9:41 pm

I’m so glad to have located this page, some helpful ways to deal with customer’s when they are having a difficult time handling a upsetting situation. I can’t wait to add this to my list. Thank You!

Posted by Lynnette — 2 Jun @ 2:09 am

very helpful indeed. i copie some so that i may apply it on my calls. thank you.

Posted by bella dela cruz — 4 Jun @ 5:20 pm

thanks for this.. i learned a lot..

Posted by kaice sulapas — 17 Jun @ 9:35 am

i like the scheme of this page. it’s helpful. i hope though that phrases to pacify angry customers will be added here. more explicit and more vivid examples.

Posted by miggy — 25 Jun @ 8:06 am

this article is really helpful and also the comments from readers, I’ll definitely apply what I’ve learned from here

Posted by Anonymous — 1 Jul @ 11:45 am

Nice article, will apply what I learned from here

Posted by Maila C — 1 Jul @ 11:46 am

I’ve learned as much from the comments…more, really, than the article. Thanks. Thanks for keeping on point and making the original article even better.

Posted by Neel — 1 Jul @ 3:44 pm

In the organisation I work for, we train our staff to use Empathy (I understand) – Explain (your reasons) and Offer alternatives. Empathy calms the customer down and puts you in their shoes and use the emotive words they are experiencing i.e. ‘I understand how frustrating…upsetting…angry etc’ You need to understand the reason why you are saying No and don’t hide behind policies. And finally by offering them the alternative, they are likely to be less frustrated. The tips are to let them vent first but if they are rude then we train them to be assertive and remain calm…’Mr Brown I have not been rude to you so there is no need to be rude to me. If you calm down I will be able to assist you but if you continue to be rude I would have to terminate this call’.

Ps. I really found your links and tips very useful and will help me with my training! Thanks.

Posted by Terri Oke — 2 Jul @ 6:11 pm

Post a comment







Subscribe to the free Call Centre Helper Newsletter
Google Plus page

injixo ad
Button Adverts
injixo ad

Latest Jobs
Newsletter
Click here for a FREE SUBSCRIPTION
to Call Centre Helper

free newsletter
Latest news
Directory
Poll
Do you have homeworking agents in your contact centre?






Popular Pages
Join the Discussion
 
call centre | call centre jobs | presentation | powerpoint templates | business helper