If you wish to be successful in any business, you have to learn how to handle angry and disgruntled customers, who may not have received the level of service that they expected from the company that you are representing.
Before you devise a plan to cope with these difficult situations, it is important to try and understand the viewpoint from both sides. You are the initial point of contact with the angry customer and they are expressing their concerns about the company and not about you as an individual.
Try Not to Take It Personally
Your aim should always be customer satisfaction, whatever the situation. How you achieve this is up to you based on your individual strengths and inter-personal skills.
Listed below are five important points and examples of how to assist a difficult customer, followed by guidelines to help you develop your own personal strategy for dealing with them.
Five Things to Do
1. Reassure The Customer
One of the first and most important things to do is reassure the customer that you are listening. Even if you won’t be able to give them exactly what they want, they need to be sure that their message is getting across.
The sad fact is that many customers will have had negative experiences with contact centres before. You need to demonstrate that they have your attention and that you really intend to help.
Examples of reassuring statements
“Calling us was the right thing to do”
“I’ll let you explain the situation first, and then we’ll find you a solution”
“Please feel free to tell me anything you think is relevant”
“I can certainly understand why this is distressing”
“Your issue is a cause for concern – let’s find out why this happened”
“I always try to show I am really listening. Remember the human side of things and show empathy when the customer is distressed – there’s nothing worse than a ‘computer said no’ or ‘terms and conditions’ line when someone is upset.”
– With thanks to Rhian Roberts
2. Show Empathy
Empathy is important, so it can help to show that anyone would feel the same under these circumstances. The quickest way to anger somebody is to suggest that they are overreacting.
Even if the customer’s response does seem out of proportion, there are ways to be apologetic without just saying ‘sorry’. In fact, saying sorry can often give the customer a new avenue for their complaint – “sorry doesn’t solve my problem”.
Examples of empathy statements
“I would feel the same in your situation, but we will sort this out”
“Your experience does not meet our expectations”
“I know how frustrating it can be – let’s see how I can help you”
“I can certainly appreciate how you feel”
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention”
“The advisor has to understand whether the customer’s needs are ‘physical’ or ’emotional’. With physical needs, the customer is angry because they don’t have something they should have.
Phrases for those customers are things like ‘Let me sort this out for you so you can get the refund you were expecting’.
If their needs are emotional, they are angry because the advisor has not understood how they are feeling.”
For those customers, use phrases like ‘I can tell you are frustrated, and my job is to make sure you are not frustrated any more’.”
– With thanks to Parag Patel
For more advice on how to do so, read our 18 essential empathy statements, with guided commentary.
3. Keep It Factual
If the customer’s anger is making the call difficult to deal with, try to keep things factual. Simply outlining the situation encourages them to focus on their communication and makes it harder to maintain an aggressive tone.
It’s also very useful to give the customer some idea of what measures you are going to take to help them. You may be confident in your abilities, but they don’t know anything about you or the process you are following.
Examples of statements to keep the interaction factual
“Let me check I’ve got all the facts straight”
“This will help to make sure that I’m definitely the right person to assist you”
“To guarantee you get the best possible help, I may bring my supervisor into the call”
“Is there anything else about the situation I need to know?”
“I’ll do this for you as quickly as possible”
“Always listen to the client before saying anything. They have probably rehearsed what they’re going to tell you and by cutting them off you can make them angry.”
“Before assisting the client with their problem, ask if it’s ok that you verify the query, so they know that you were listening. This also avoids giving the client wrong information.”
– With thanks to Dane Khan
4. Add Personality
Some phrases can get the customer to empathise more with the advisor they are speaking to. Even when they are angry with the service, there’s no reason for them to be angry with you personally. In fact, you often hear this phrase in complaint calls: “I know this isn’t your fault, but I’m unhappy with how your company has behaved.”
Advisors can use phrases that build a relationship with the customer, making it much harder for them to act aggressively.
Examples of statements that add personality
“Let’s work together to solve this”
“If you’re not happy, I’m not happy”
“I’m as surprised as you are that this has happened – let’s sort it out”
“Let’s make sure you get what you need from this situation”
“Here’s an idea – tell me what you think of this”
“Placing yourself on the customer’s side will divert their anger. This also restores their faith in the brand and lets them know that you are there to help.”
– With thanks to Elizabeth Brabner
5. Offer Solutions
Finally, advisors need to sell a solution to the customer. This can be tough, because it’s not always going to be the outcome that the customer hoped for. By bringing them into the process and offering the solution as an agreement between both parties, advisors stand a much better chance of resolving the issue.
If they’re not totally happy, you can ask them what would need to change, and then look for a middle ground.
Examples of statements to introduce solutions
“Your issue is unusual, but I have dealt with similar cases before and I can help you”
“In my experience the best way to proceed is_____. How does that sound to you?”
“I’ll investigate this right away and find out why your experience has suffered”
“There are a few ways to address this – we just need to find the best fit for you”
“I know this isn’t how you want to spend your morning, and I can offer you this solution”
“It’s important that if you give a negative message, you counter it with a positive one. ‘While I can’t do that for you, I can do this for you.’ Little things go a long way, like ‘Thank you for being patient while I look into this’ or ‘thank you for waiting on hold while I attempt to resolve this’.”
– With thanks to Simon Murphy