Customer Service

Irate Customers

The following post will provide you with 10 Tips To Deal With Angry Customers, which can be applied to any form of customer facing/non-facing roles.

Remain calm.

The more emotionally involved you become in trying to calm the customer down or attempting to prove your own point, the more difficult it will become to quickly and effectively resolve the issue.

Stop talking and listen.

This should be the golden rule. An angry customer will not likely start to calm down until they feel they have fully explained their grievance or problem.

Actively listen to the customer (take notes if possible!).

Whilst they are explaining their problem, reassure them that you are listening to what they have to say by acknowledging what they've said, such as “..I understand what you’re saying..” or even something as simple as “.. I see..” or “..Yes..”. Once you get more confidence you can start to adapt it further with difficult customers by re-emphasising particular comments, which indicates that you have listened and do understand what they have explained.

Recap on the information.

Once the customer has fully explained their argument or concern, paraphrase what they have said to ensure their confidence that you understand their complaint. For example, let’s assume a customer has called to complain about their high electricity bill. They have just finished expressing their concerns on how it has increased 5x higher than the previous bill and they can’t afford to pay it. You could reply with “I understand that you’re concerned over the increased cost of your electricity bill and that you’re looking to find the cause of the increase and look at the potential payment options available?”. This is just a general example but you can start to see the concept of paraphrasing occurring.

Successfully avoid escalated calls.

In the event that the customer has immediately, or after brief discussion, requested to speak with a manager, don't panic! You need to respect the customers request and it may be the case that your manager will eventually take the call, however, it doesn't need to be the first option. A good technique is to first ask the customer to briefly explain their concern so that you can advise the manager prior to transferring the call. Then ask permission to place them on hold while you speak with the manager. STOP! Take a quick second to review the situation in your mind, based on what the customer has told you, do you in fact need the manager? Do you know that you can resolve the situation yourself? If so, work out your plan of attack while the customer is (briefly) on hold. Return to the call and apologise to the customer along the lines of "I'm sorry, my manager is just in a meeting at the moment and I"m happy to take your details for a return call, however, after reviewing the details for you I believe that I can fix the problem, would you be happy for me to work through that with you now?". If they accept, success! I gurantee that once you have mastered this technique over time, it will prevent any need for an escalated call. Should they happen to decline, take their name and number and provide them with a proposed time for a return call from your manager. 

Don't handball!

There's nothing worse than when a colleague handballs something to you, right? So don't be a culprit. In most situations it's the same as dealing with an escalated call. Even if the customer asks to speak with your colleague, seek permission to put them on hold. Obtain the information from  the colleague and return to the customer advising your apologies, that they were unavailable, however, you can help resolve the situation for them. Again, use your judgement, if the customer is genuinely frustrated and demands to speak with your team mate transfer them through, but first best to get their details surrounding the reason for the call and the reason for the call so that your colleague is prepared, or arrange a call back where possible. 

Take accountability.

It may not be that easy to provide an immediate solution to your client. If this is the case, collect their contact details and ask their patience whilst you look into the situation, or request permission to provide a return call gaining an appropriate time frame that suits the client and yourself. With most difficult and angry customers their main concern is being reassured they’ve been heard and that someone will look into it. By taking accountability it will ensure the customer does not return the call 5 minutes later to another colleague whilst you’re still reviewing the situation. Where possible, provide them with your name and contact details, alternatively if you are in a call centre environment or retail outlet, update clear and concise messages on your internal system or briefly inform your colleagues of the situation and the steps you’re looking to take to resolve the situation.

Be courteous.

If the deadline for your follow up call is fast approaching and you know you’re not going to be able to resolve the situation by that time, give the customer a courtesy call. Don’t go into detail as to why the situation has yet to be resolved, for example “Sorry, I can’t fix the problem because I need to speak with my team member and they’re on lunch!”, instead perhaps “I’m reviewing the situation with a colleague and at this stage we’re still discussing all of the options and the best solution available to resolve the situation”. Explain the steps you’ve taken so far to resolve the problem and gain their permission on a revised timeframe for a response. By this stage you need to be realistic, if the situation won’t be solved until the next day and you know this is the case ensure to inform the customer. They may be disappointed on these prolonged delays, but at least they’ve been provided with clear expectations moving forward.

Escalate where required.

In the event that a situation is outside of your control or you understand that the solution required to fix it requires management approval, escalate the situation.

Follow up.

The follow up call is one of the most important things to finally defuse and angry customer. You should always ask the customers permission to return their call in a few days time to ensure that the completion of their dispute has been resolved. This ensures that no further problems have arisen and that leaves the customer satisfied with the high level of customer service. 

We hope that these 10 tips will assist you in improving or refining your skills when dealing with an angry customer. Please feel free to leave any comments below with any further questions or to share your own experiences. 

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