In the customer service industry, we will have to deal with an angry customer sooner or later. The stress and unpredictability of these situations are the cause of many disastrous fails.
Not knowing how to deal with angry customers can culminate into giant losses for the companies involved.
Everyone has a story to tell about an angry customer:
We have all heard the story of the agent who could not even say hello before the client’s negativity radiated through the handset. Or the one in which the agent’s pleasant tone only fueled the fire that had been burning for days inside the client’s head.
Angry customers deconcentrate the agents. They make unreasonable requests and demand to speak with a supervisor, all with a little screaming and blasphemy. It is inevitable that your customer service agents stay away from all these situations, and it is certainly the most difficult part of your job. The bad news: there will always be angry customers.
The good news is that you can train agents to handle these situations effectively and calm clients.
Here are 4 tips to handle angry customers:
- Approach with a kind and compassionate mind.
In angry customer situations, when someone attacks, we intuitively shoot into stress and defense mode – fight or flight. But that’s exactly the wrong mindset if your aim isn’t to throw a punch but to calm the customer down.
The agents need to master the art of letting go.
This way, agents can realize that it’s not the actual event that causes stress. It’s not the angry customer, your co-workers, or your boss. It’s the reaction to the event that causes the stress – the fear of not being able to fix the situation, of not being able to calm down the customer.
This fear of a negative outcome results from the desire to turn things into a certain direction. By letting go of the idea that you must fix the situation, you let go of the fear and stress.
That’s not the same as not caring, however. It’s just the realization that you can only do the work as best as you can.
A good service agent knows how to feel and understand the pain of others and want to reduce that suffering.
- Calm down customers through questioning.
Defense is the standard response to anger – and it mostly consists out of arguing why the customer’s anger is unfounded. But it’s pointless to argue with someone who is completely furious. In this condition, customers are incapable to listen to reason.
What does all this mean for dealing with angry customers? The priority should be to calm the customer down. First, handle the person, then the issue.
The questioning technique is a good way to do this. It’s nothing more than sincerely asking the customer to explain his problem in detail, without casting judgment. Use follow-up questions to get a clear image of the situation.
With this technique, the customer will feel that they are taking it seriously because they are being actively listened. This by itself will already reduce his combative state of mind. Also, the act of talking and explaining redirects your customer’s mind to a rational state. It’s not possible to accurately communicate when you’re all fired up; while explaining, your customer will automatically calm down.
“But,” you say, “it’s not my fault.” It doesn’t matter who’s to blame; apologize anyway. As a representative of your company, you have a responsibility to see that things go well. Your willingness to be accountable will have a positive effect. After all, it takes two to have an argument. If one of you refuses to be disagreeable you can’t have a disagreement. You are not accepting blame-you are simply saying, “I’m sorry about the problem.” You are wasting your breath unless you apologize with complete sincerity so be sure that your tone of voice matches your words.
- Own the problem.
It does not matter who created the problem or what transpired before the customer got to you. Tell the customer that you own the problem and will apply your personal effort to achieve results.
Sometimes it may be tempting to distance yourself from the problem by stating that you are not responsible for it, that another department will need to handle it, or that you are just a messenger. Put that temptation in a can and put a lid on it. Expressing that you do not have ownership of the problem or the potential resolution gives the customer a feeling of being adrift and powerless. if the customer senses that he or she is communicating with someone who is powerless, it will create yet another reason to be frustrated and angry.
Make sure that you listen actively to your customer’s problems or complaints and resist the urge to interrupt or solve the problem right away. Be empathic and understanding, with your customers ALWAYS.
If you’re not sure how to fix the situation, then ask your customers what will make them happy. If it’s in your power, then get it done as soon as possible. Follow up with your customers to make sure they are happy with how the situation was resolved.
Dealing with difficult customers can be really difficult. But if you know how to handle the situation, you may even be able to improve the relationship with your customers and create further opportunities.