Last Updated on February 16, 2021
Let’s talk about how to deal with angry customers.
Angry customers are always a challenge.
No one wants to deal with a screaming, irate customer on the other end of the phone line. But, if you’re in customer service long enough, you won’t be able to escape it. One day, when you least expect it, you’ll find yourself in crisis mode with an angry customer.
What do you do in such a situation?
In this post, we share actionable tips for handling angry, unhappy customers. Let’s get started.
Check Your Tone
When speaking with an irate customer on the phone, you can’t use body language to diffuse the difficult situation. But you do have one powerful weapon at your disposal: your tone of voice.
The tone of your voice will have either a positive or a negative impact on your interaction with the customer.
When confronted with an angry customer, you may think the best solution is to counter that energy with a flat and unaffected tone. But that can actually backfire. Your customer doesn’t want you to match their negative energy — they want you to care! If you sound nonchalant and apathetic, that can upset them even more than the initial problem.
The easiest way to ensure that your tone is positive is to smile while you talk. When empathizing with your customer, wear an empathetic smile. When finding a solution for your customer, wear a cooperative smile. It may seem silly, but it works, especially if you’re genuine in your concern for helping the customer.
A smile instantly upgrades your tone. Try it.
Choose Your Words Carefully
You’ve probably heard the advice not to say words like “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” because they imply that you’re at fault. Disregard that advice. You can truly feel sorry for a customer without being at fault for what they’re going through. Some customers may actually want you to sympathize with their negative experience even though they know that your company or its product/service is not at fault. Try saying “I understand” when someone is venting – and let them vent. It works wonders and really diffuses most people if you say it empathetically.
Get specific with what you’re apologizing for. Don’t just say “I’m sorry” but say “I’m sorry because…” or “I’m sorry that…”. Then partner with the customer to create an action plan for how to correct the issue going forward.
If your company or its product/service is at fault, apologize but don’t linger on your wrong-doing. Instead, acknowledge the issues on your end that caused the customer to experience discomfort and then look for ways to repair your now-damaged relationship with your customer.
These actions show your customer that you care about their experience. Don’t be afraid to take responsibility. Customers will forgive your mistake, especially if you’re willing to make it right.
Don’t Try to Prove That the Angry Customer Is Wrong
Understand that customers and their complaints aren’t always reasonable or rational.
What happens when an angry customer is in the wrong?
You do what it takes to make them happy and whole.
Your customer may not always be right, but it’s not your job to prove that they’re wrong. It’s your job to listen to the customer’s pain, understand it and see if there’s a way to (reasonably) fix it.
If you’re not doing that, you’re probably taking it personal. Don’t do that.
Check your emotions at the door.
It’s hard not to get angry when the person at the other end of the line is speaking sharply but they’re not really angry with you. They’re frustrated with the product. They may also be frustrated with your company. And because you represent your company, they’re unleashing their anger on you.
Remove yourself from the equation and remember that they don’t know you, they’re not targeting you. Instead, they’re upset and desperately seeking validation and a remedy to their problem.
Practice Active Listening
Give your full attention to the upset customer. Don’t try to multitask when speaking to an angry person. They can read that you’re not focused fully on what they’re saying, and they won’t like it.
Instead, actively listen as your customer shares their grievances. This will help you understand the situation better, so you can more effectively solve the problem.
Practice Reflective Listening
In addition to listening actively, also employ reflective listening. This is the next step beyond active listening. When you listen reflectively, you ask questions to support your understanding of the issue. Then, when it’s time to respond, you restate or reflect the problem in your own terms. This shows the customer that you’ve listened to them and understand the problem. It’s a necessary step for diffusing upset customers in such a situation.
Your angry customer wants to know that you can understand what they’re going through. That’s empathy.
The best way to empathize with your upset customer is to see things from their perspective. How would you feel if put in that position? What would you like to happen?
By employing empathy, you can effectively think through and find solutions to your customer’s issue.
Use Your Customer’s Name
Personalization can de-escalate any situation. By using their name (with a smile and not with clenched teeth), you can make your customer feel like you’re talking to them and not at them.
In other words, you’re not just handling a problem, you’re working with another human to correct an issue. People want to connect with other people.
Using their name raises your level of respect, and creates a human component to your interaction.
Write a Script for Your Agents
Prepare your agents and yourself for angry customers by creating a de-escalation script. You can store this script in PhoneBurner so that your team can easily access it when confronted by an angry customer.
In your script, provide a list of actions/options that your agents can offer angry customers.
Having a script enables your agents to stay calm and in control of the interaction. It gives them choices on how to proceed moving forward. They may not remember their product training but, if you give them access to a script, they don’t have to sweat.
Don’t Put the Customer on Hold
Should you put your customer on hold to de-escalate the difficult situation?
It’s best if you don’t.
While it may sound like a good idea, putting them on hold actually upsets customers more and gives them extra time to stew in their anger as they listen to your hold music.
If you absolutely must, give your customer the option to receive a call back from you. But try your best to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
Be a Problem Solver
Most angry customers aren’t just calling to vent. They want a solution to their problem. Be quick to offer solutions. Notice that was plural. Don’t just offer one option because it makes the customer feel like they have no choice (and an angry customer who feels powerless is not a good combination).
Instead, give them at least two options for every issue (even if one of those options is to cancel service/get a refund). This gives the customer power to choose their destiny and makes them feel better about their prospects.
Know When to Escalate the Call
Sometimes, no matter what your agents do, no matter how much they smile and empathize, they just can’t solve the customer’s problem. Maybe the issue is beyond the scope of their abilities. Maybe they’re experiencing a personality clash.
There are also times when customers can become hostile, or disrespectful, or demand things they are not entitled to. While it’s an agent’s goal to diffuse such an occurrence, if lines are crossed then agents should know that they don’t have to tolerate disrespect. The manager should have an action plan for such a situation as well, if it occurs.
Whatever the case maybe, empower your agents on how to handle these calls without involving you, but also let them know that they can reach out to you if needed.
Take a Break to Re-Group
If it’s an option, take a break from your work to decompress after dealing with a heated call. The angry customer may have used harsh language or tone. They may have been time-consuming and exhausting to deal with. Some recovery time may be helpful.
Burnout among people in customer service work is real. Don’t forget to practice self-care and take a walk or go for lunch after an angry customer encounter. You deserve a break. If your shift or workload doesn’t allow for it, shoot for a few deep breaths. Chances are the next customer interaction will be a better one.
Final Thoughts on Dealing with Angry Customers
Dealing with angry customers can be a rough experience, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. Keep everything in perspective and don’t take things personally. Then use the above tips to diffuse an angry situation over the phone and solve your customer’s problem.