If you work in customer service or own a business, you will occasionally need to take calls from angry customers. How you handle these calls can determine the quality of reviews you receive and the success of your business. The most important thing to do is stay calm. Make them feel listened to before you offer solutions. If the customer’s anger is escalating out of control, try to calm them down, but know when to step away.
- Take deep, silent breaths. If you answer a call and know right away that this will be a difficult interaction, take deep breaths to steady yourself. It won’t help the situation if you get worked up too, so remind yourself throughout the call to continue breathing deeply. Just don’t do it loudly enough for the caller to hear you since this will make your frustration obvious.
- Allow the customer to vent their frustrations. Let the angry client talk through their problems and explain all the reasons they’re unhappy. Do not interrupt them since this will just make them angrier. If you have a question, wait until the person is finished to ask it.
- Remind yourself it’s not personal. An angry customer probably won’t be careful about the specific language they use. When they say, “You messed this up,” they usually mean the company messed up. Remember that this isn’t about you, and taking it personally will stress you out unnecessarily.
- Encourage them with brief prompts. As they talk, make indications that you are listening, such as “Uh huh,” “Okay,” “Oh, wow,” and “Really?” This will assure them that you are paying attention and make them feel like you want to hear the whole story.
- Use a level voice. Your instinct may be to raise your voice in response to being yelled at, but this will only make matters worse. It will escalate the conversation to an argument, and the customer won’t trust you to help them. Keep your voice level throughout the call, never speaking above a normal conversational tone.
- Summarize the situation in your own words. Show you were listening by repeating the main points of the story back to them in your own words. Start by saying “Let’s see if I’m clear on this…” or “So basically what happened was…” This will also help ensure that you and the customer are both on the same page about what the issue is.
- Be sympathetic. Let the customer know that you understand how frustrated they are. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they must have felt in this situation. Use phrases like “I can imagine how upsetting that must have been” or “That must have been so irritating.”
- Apologize when it’s appropriate. If the problem was caused by something you or another employee did, apologize to the customer for the mistake. If the problem is a result of something the customer did wrong, you don’t need to apologize. You can simply say, “That’s not what we want, so let’s see what we can do to make it right.”
- An example of a possible apology is “I’m so sorry we messed up your order and caused this inconvenience. Let’s talk about how we can make it up to you.”
- Offer to try to fix the problem. Avoid promising to outright fix the issue since that may not be possible. But always promise to attempt a solution. Use phrases like, “Let me see what I can do” and “I’m going to try to get this sorted out.”
- Use positive statements whenever possible. The customer will want to know what you can do for them, not what you can’t do. Use positive language instead of words like “no,” “can’t,” or “won’t.” Even if what they want isn’t possible, try saying, “What if we offered you this instead?”
EditDealing with Escalating Anger
- Ask questions to calm the customer down. Rather than arguing with the customer, ask questions to focus their mind on the facts. Try asking them to clarify a couple of details from their story, or ask them how they want to see the situation remedied.
- For example, you could ask, “What’s your ideal solution to this issue?”
- Stop the customer if they become directly abusive toward you. Allow them to communicate their feelings, but if they begin to call you names or use explicit language, cut them off. Tell them what the consequences will be if they continue speaking in this manner.
- For example, you could say, “Sir, I understand that you’re frustrated, but if you continue to use that kind of language I’ll have to end the call.”
- If you don’t own the business, make sure you know ahead of time what your company’s policy is regarding abusive language. Your employer should have a written rule about when it’s acceptable to disconnect a call.
- Respect the customer’s wishes to speak with a supervisor. The customer may be so fed up with the situation that they ask to speak to someone in a position of power. Don’t take this personally or get defensive if they demand it; just oblige them and pass them on to your manager.
- If you’re the manager or owner, politely tell them so by saying, “I am the manager on duty. I’d like to hear your story and work on a solution with you.”
- Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Making the customer feel appreciated may help to defuse some of their anger. Show them that you view their call not as an inconvenience, but as an opportunity to improve.
- Try finishing the interaction with a quick “Thank you for letting us know about this. We don’t want this to happen again.”
- Take time to unwind after the call. Calls like this can be emotionally draining, so if you have the chance, take a break. Step outside to take a quick walk around the block. Head to the break room to grab a cup of coffee and chat with a coworker. Or just take five minutes at your desk to meditate and take deep breaths.
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