Whether you are self-employed or you work for someone else, at some point in your career you will have picked up the phone to an angry or irate caller. It’s a stomach sinking moment isn’t it? Sometimes if a call is handled badly it can escalate resulting in an unhappy customer and a member of staff feeling wounded for the rest of their shift.
Whilst it is not necessarily realistic to subscribe to the adage ‘the customer is always right’, generally speaking the customer is not going to waste their time calling for no reason. Having an understanding of why the customer is calling is the first step towards dealing with their complaint efficiently and effectively.
Customers mainly complain because they feel aggrieved with the company they are calling; the service they have received; a faulty product; or missing items for example. The complaint may be real or it may be perceived – in either case the call should be handled in the same way.
Here's our top 9 tips
- Establish the facts/make notes: this will help the call flow and show you are taking the complaint seriously
- Remain calm/don’t get angry: getting angry will only exacerbate the situation. Don’t take it personally!
- Don’t argue: this is counterproductive and unprofessional. State facts by all means but be careful with your tone
- Be sympathetic and understanding: this will help to build rapport and help to calm the caller but…
- Don’t patronise: this may antagonise and show you aren’t being serious
- Be patient/don’t interrupt - let the customer vent: sometimes this is all the customer needs and once they have had their say and released their anger the problem is 50% resolved
- Use the correct language: be positive and assertive. Use words such as ‘I’, ‘definitely’, ‘resolve’, ‘solution’, ‘yes’, ‘action’
- Understand that you don’t have to accept abuse: a customer being abusive to someone who is trying to help is unacceptable. Give the standard three warnings and terminate the call
- Solve the problem: if you can! Do your best – there’s usually a resolution
Dealing with an angry customer can be very stressful so ensure there are ways to combat this so that everyone can move on. Do whatever it takes (within reason!) to get the upset out of your system – step outside for fresh air; have a coffee; have a slice of cake; get a hug from a willing participant! Perspective is important – don’t let one bad call ruin your day: try and remain positive.
There may be an occasional situation that can’t be resolved for whatever reason. It may be that the customer has unrealistic expectations or it may be that the customer’s faith cannot be restored. As long as you have discharged your legal obligations and tried your best the customer should accept this and walk way.
Angry customers are part and parcel of running a business or working in customer services. If you can move on and accept ‘these things happen’ you’ll do well. And don’t forget you can always get someone else to take your calls for you.