Working in customer service can be a very rewarding experience — after all, not a lot of feelings come close to the rush you get when you successfully help a person out with whatever problem they might have. Especially when the customer is nice and grateful for your service.
Unfortunately, as the people who answer a lot of customer calls will confirm, it’s rare to get a completely problem-free call. A lot of cases seem to involve bitter, angry individuals, who either can’t be bothered to pick up the instruction manual and figure out the solution on their own or the product’s malfunctioning was directly caused by their inability to operate it properly. At least that’s the way it seems – employees that answer these calls might be taken aback and discouraged, to say the least.
Of course, screening your calls can make a huge difference – if you work at a larger company, a receptionist who really knows their job, or an answering service (like Ivy Answer or MoneyPenny), they can take the edge off and direct the call to the right person. This often solves a lot of anger issues right from the start.
Regardless of why a customer is angry, and whether their rage is justified or not, it is up to the person receiving the call to identify the problem and advise the upset person on the other end how to proceed. It can be very frustrating and even soul-crushing at times, which is one of the reasons why many employees of customer service departments often develop a robotic and impersonal – often passive-aggressive tone.
Whether you’re managing a customer support team or are responsible for working the phone yourself, follow these simple tips to improve the way you deal with angry customers and prevent your stress levels from increasing while you’re at it.
Recognize Their Anger…
One of the most common mistakes made by beginner customer support professionals is trying to play down or trivialize the caller’s concerns. Saying things like “Sir, please calm down” or “it’s actually not that big of a deal” will not only be useless in terms of changing the tone of the conversation, but actually can make the customer even more pissed off!
Imagine being really angry about something. You don’t even have to put yourself in your customer’s position. Just think of how it feels when something bothers or worries you to the point of ticking you off, and someone comes in and basically tells you that you are completely wrong to feel this way and it would be much better if you calmed down instantly. For the majority of the population, this kind of talk only deepens the anger and resentment towards the person that’s trying to help you.
Whenever you encounter an angry caller, be aware that they, too, are just human beings frustrated with a product or service that isn’t working the way they expect it too. Instead of telling them to calm down, hear them out and calmly, but surely, offer up your solution.
A lot of the times it might not even be about the product – 90% of the problem might lay in an area you simply cannot fix for them, like personal or professional life.
… But Don’t Validate It!
Although you should always be mindful of the customer’s mood and not try to ease it down or trivialize it in any way, you cannot be too soft on them, either. No matter how infuriated the person you’re speaking to is, do not apologize to them! By apologizing, you’re basically incriminating yourself and the company for something that might be easily fixable.
Instead of saying “I’m sorry”, try telling them: “I understand that you might feel this way. Here’s what we can do to solve your problem”. Simply stating that you deem their frustration and anger completely normal can calm down most of the raging callers — they’ll feel understood and more likely to talk to you in a more civilized manner.
Apologizing, on the other hand, will only deepen the divide between you and the person on the other end of the line, as they’ll feel entitled to not having to do anything to solve the problem themselves, or worse yet, demanding reimbursement. This is why you should politely establish the need of cooperation as early on in the call as possible. It will enable you to pass down instructions more easily and increase the likelihood of the customer precisely following the steps that you’ve outlined.
The Alternative Way
If you feel like your team is not doing a good enough job when dealing with troublesome people, you might want to consider adopting a different method of interaction with customers altogether.
One innovative solution that is becoming increasingly popular is automated receptionists/customer service experts, programmed to deal with the most common issues people call with. It does not mean that you have to lay off all of your customer support staff, quite the opposite — subscribing to an automated system of picking up the initial call will enable your employees to utilize their time at work more efficiently.
Alternately, there are a lot of conflict management courses available too – you don’t need to be a psychologist to develop a routine when dealing with angry customers. You need to train our compassion, understanding, and most of all, don’t take it personally.