Here are some practical strategies you can try the next time an difficult customer phones in.
1. Repeat the problem back to show understanding
When you first pick up a call, it is likely the customer will be feeling vulnerable and unsure about whether their issue will be resolved or not.
Always acknowledge the complaint in hand by repeating it back to the customer. This will reassure the customer that they have your full attention and that you understand their problem.
2. Don’t over-apologise
Don’t over-apologise. No one wants to hear you say “I’m sorry” a thousand times.
Instead, say “I do apologise” (which sounds more professional) and then focus on finding a solution.
3. The Feel, Felt, Found approach
When you are confident that you understand the complaint in hand, the Feel, Felt, Found approach can help you reassure the customer that you are on their side and have a solution which will work for them.
- Mr Smith, I understand how you FEEL…
- Something similar happened to me and I FELT the same way…
- What I FOUND and I hope this will be the same for you, is… (insert solution)
4. Assure the customer you’ll personally take up the matter
Another way to calm an angry customer is to listen to their complaint and promise that you will personally help to resolve it. To show that you are being sincere, you should also give out your name and employee number.
Wrap up the call by explaining to the customer that you will chase this matter up for them and call them back by the end of the day to update them on their case status.
Then do exactly that!
Even if the issue is yet to be fully resolved, calling back when you said you would will help the customer feel confident that their issue is being taken seriously.
5. Set realistic expectations
Don’t give out false information or lie just to escape the customer’s bad temper! This will only make the problem worse in the long run.
Instead, set realistic expectations for the customer when discussing next steps and time frames. It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to over-promise and under-deliver.
6. If the customer wants to speak to a supervisor immediately…
Sometimes a customer will demand to speak to a supervisor the second the call is answered. This isn’t always practical or necessary.
Here are some simple steps to resolve the customer’s issue without escalating the call.
Step one – Say “yes, of course”
The best thing to do when a customer makes this request is to say “yes, of course”. This will help to appease them as they will feel that their request is being taken seriously.
Step two – Find out more information
Instead of passing them straight through to a supervisor, ask “To make sure I pass you through to the right person, can you please tell me what your issue is?”
Then listen to what the customer has to say.
Step three – Say “I can actually help you with that today”
If you are able to deal with the customer’s complaint, say “I can actually help you take care of that today. Do you have your account number (insert name)?”
By asking a leading question and taking control of the call, you can get the customer to assist in helping you resolve their issue without getting a supervisor involved.
7. Maintain a low, even tone with abusive callers
When faced with an abusive caller, you should remain calm and professional – and give the customer a chance to change their tone. It can be helpful to maintain a low, even tone as you attempt to take back control of the call.
Step one – Listen to the problem and continue as normal
If you pick up the phone to an abusive caller, continue as normal, listen to the problem and empathise.
It is important to let the customer speak – regardless of whether they drop in the occasional F or C word. You may find they calm down once they have had a chance to get everything off their chest.
Step two – Suggest they call back when they have calmed down
If the caller shows no signs of calming down, suggest they call back when they can better control their language.
Step three – Warn the caller you will have to terminate the call
If the caller continues to stay on the line and use abusive language, it is in everyone’s best interests to terminate the call.
You should prepare the caller for this through a series of warnings:
- “(insert name), I understand that you are upset, but I will have to end this call if you continue to use that language.”
- “(insert name), this is your second warning. I understand that you are upset, but I will have to end this call if you continue to use that language.”
- “I’m sorry (insert name), as you have continued to use offensive language, I have no choice but to terminate the call. Please call back when you are feeling calmer and my colleagues will be more than happy to assist you.”
- Hang up.
Click here for The Right Words and Phrases to Say to an Angry Customer
Have you seen success with any of these techniques? How do you handle angry customers in your contact centre?
Written by Megan Jones, Call Centre Helper