How Advisors Can Destress After an Angry Customer


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Mark Palmer shares advice on how advisors can destress after a call with an angry customer.

Difficult calls are inevitable. No matter how brilliant your customer service is, there will always be occasional mishaps and callers that refuse to be placated.

This takes its toll on advisors – it is never nice to be on the receiving end of a fierce complaint, even if you know full well that it is not your fault, and you did everything you could to resolve things.

Often the first few moments after coming off a tough call can be the worst. You may have adrenaline pumping round your body out of control, you may be upset or angry about how the caller spoke to you, and you may be disappointed that you did not handle the call as well as you would have liked.

So how can you quickly get your equilibrium back and get on with your day without that one difficult call casting a shadow over everything?

Take Some Time

The obvious thing to do after a really tough call is to try and take a moment to calm down, maybe grab a coffee or splash some water on your face. This is a good strategy – don’t pretend that nothing has happened and just carry on, as you will just be bottling up all that stress for later.

Even if you cannot leave your desk, just take a few seconds for some deep breaths and to regather yourself. It won’t give you an instant fix, but it will start to bring you back to normality.

As your heart rate starts to return to normal and more oxygen gets to your brain and body, you will start to feel a little calmer.

But do not take a long time out, unless it is your scheduled break anyway. After a short period, the longer you leave it, the more anxious you may become about that next call.

Nothing and nobody can play tricks on us like our own minds. The more time and space you give it, the more your head will start to dream up hideous but completely impossible scenarios for when you next take a call. It is a cliché, but there really is no substitute for getting back on your bike and going again.

If you do have a break before your next call, try to do something to help yourself calm down and focus on something else. Listen to some favourite music or go for a walk – both will help your mind and body to relax and move on from the stressful call.

For information on employee well-being and how to reduce stress, read our article: Employee Well-Being: How to Reduce Contact Centre Stress

Be Kind to Yourself

An angry caller is not a failure on your part, and you should not let it get you down.

A recent survey found that unhappy customers were the second highest cause of stress among call centre advisors, with only broken processes causing more headaches.

If you are getting stressed by difficult calls, you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you and it absolutely does not mean that you are not good at your job.

Callers get angry with advisors for a huge variety of reasons, and very, very few of them are to do with the advisor taking the call.

You have no idea what else is going on in the life of the caller today – that in no way excuses rudeness and bad behaviour, but we have all had times where, after a rough series of events, something quite minor is the last straw and feels like the end of the world.

You did your best, and that is all you could do. An angry caller is not a failure on your part, and you should not let it get you down.

Don’t Take It Personally

In almost all cases, that angry caller phoned your company, not you specifically. If they got angry with you, it was with you as the face of the company that they were dealing with at that time, not you being your independent self.

They were angry with their situation and their problem – they did not hold you personally responsible, even though they may have given that impression!

For tips and advice on how to interact effectively with angry customers, read our article: Rapport Building With Angry Customers – With Examples

Learn but Don’t Second-Guess

There can be an overwhelming temptation to keep replaying a difficult call in your head (or even to replay the recording, if there is one) to see what went wrong.

Learning from experiences is good, of course, but hindsight is a wonderful and delusional thing. In almost any situation, we can reflect afterwards and see things we could have said or done differently.

But calls – and life – are not like that. We do the best we can at the time with the knowledge and experience we have.

A long post-mortem analysis of the call by you or anyone else is unlikely to do much good once any key learning points have been identified, such as a quicker way of homing in on the real problem or an easy solution or resource that the customer could have been directed to much earlier.

Most people, when they come out of a job interview, can only recall in any detail the questions that they struggled to answer or thought they handled badly, even if 99% of the interview went brilliantly.

Your recollection of a difficult call will be much the same – you will instinctively focus on the bad parts and blank out everything that you did well.

Turn It Into a Positive

Building on that thought of making the difficult call a learning experience, as well as learning from your own handling of the call, is there something for your company to learn about what caused the problem in the first place?

Are you getting multiple complaints about the same problem, be it a piece of equipment that does not work or instructions that do not make sense? If there is a practical solution to the issue, the sooner you pass it through to colleagues who can actually make the change, the better.

Of course, once you have escalated or logged an issue, the next time someone calls to complain you can apologize and say in clear conscience that you know of the issue, thank them for informing you that it is not yet resolved, and assure them that a solution is already underway.

If you can give a timescale and a description of that solution, all the better. But try to avoid getting into deeply technical descriptions – most callers are not interested in why your two IT systems were not speaking to each other the way they should have been; they want to know when their parcel will be delivered!

For more information on how you can improve the customer experience, read our article: 20 Things Advisors Can Do to Improve the Customer Experience

Support Your Colleagues

Advisors and their supervisors should be all in this together.

Every single person who works in a call centre for any length of time has had their fair share of angry calls. It goes with the territory, and advisors and their supervisors should be all in this together.

You may be the only one on that particular call getting the full force of the anger of that particular customer, but it can be easier to cope with and shield yourself when you know that your colleagues have got your back and are there to pick you up again afterwards.

A few kind words or getting a drink for someone who has just come off a difficult call can make a huge difference to how fast they recover.

Do What Works for You

The suggestions for destressing so far in this article have been generic things that normally have some impact on everyone. But stress is a very personal thing, and we are all affected by it differently.

In the same way, we all have our own preferred way of dealing with it and recovering. As far as you can while you are at work, do what you know is most effective for you.

If your ideal way to destress is to go surfing, you probably aren’t going to be in a position to do that (at least not immediately), but you can close your eyes for a few seconds and remember how it felt to ride that fabulous wave.

If your pets are your stress-relief solution, glance at that picture of your super-cute Rottweiler on your desk or remember how your cat will mug you for food the moment you walk through your front door.

Find a solution that works for you in your situation and develop it over time, just as you would any other skill.

To find out more about how call centre leadership can help their staff, read our article: How to Help Call Centre Agents Deal With Stress

Conclusion

Difficult calls will always happen, and they will often be stressful for the advisor that handles them, no matter how well trained and prepared they are.

Teamwork is key – no advisor should have to feel they deal with the impact of difficult calls alone, and support can make a real difference.

Stress can never be eliminated completely – it is part of being human – but it can be managed.

Knowing that managers are doing all they can to help advisors deal with difficult calls and eliminate the causes of them where possible will make a huge difference to the mindset of advisors and stop them thinking that they are taking the flack for someone else’s mistake, a position nobody enjoys being in!

Stress can never be eliminated completely – it is part of being human – but it can be managed.

With recognition from supervisors of the impact of stressful calls, visible efforts to keep them to a minimum, and the freedom to develop and implement their own personalized strategies for dealing with that stress, advisors can learn to quickly bounce back and minimize any long-term effects.

To find out more about dealing with difficult customers and improving staff well-being, read our articles:

Published On: 11th Oct 2021 - Last modified: 19th Oct 2021
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