6 things service reps should do when an angry customer calls

angry customers on the phoneWhen you are running a business you won’t be able to please all customers no matter how hard you try.

In some cases that translates into an angry customer dialing the contact number and swearing at the customer service rep on the other end of the line.

How your reps respond to this situation will define your brand in a way that no number of brand building exercises can.

Oh, and if  you need a less fluffy and more business-ey reason to pay attention to these interactions take a look at this survey by American Express.

In response to one question, 39% of the respondents said that they would not hesitate switch to the competition because of poor service experience.

On the bright side, the same survey finds out that friendly service reps who can solve customer problems are one of the biggest reasons a company gets a good impression.
Unsurprisingly, that also results in more business. 70% of happy customers will, on average, spend 13% more.

If you’re in charge of a company you want to make sure that every pissed off customer calling in hangs up in a more positive frame of mind. Here is a road map to help you and your reps design a better customer service experience.

1. Don’t take it personally

This point is critical, because if you don’t make sure your customer service reps get this simple yet powerful concept none of the other suggestions here are going to matter. They must understand that the anger of a customer is not directed personally at them. They are not personally responsible for a misplaced order, a delayed flight or a defective product. Their job is to understand the customer problem and do their best to make it up to the her.

2. Don’t raise your voice

Angry people shout. This is almost human nature and therefore the first sentences out of an angry caller would be usually high decibel.

However tempting it might be, don’t respond back in the same volume. You want to get the job done with the minimum of fuss and shouting back antagonizes the customer even more. When your customer ultimately gets tired of shouting, respond politely in a normal voice. In the vast majority of cases this will cut the hysterics out of the conversation and enable you to get down to business.

3. Don’t argue back

When you are dealing with a excitable customer you can’t put on your argumentative hat.
That means that in the beginning of the conversation, you can’t contest your caller’s version of how things went down. Be a very good listener and no matter what you hear nod along and empathize with their position. Most reasonable people will dial back their hostility when they find they are getting a sympathetic hearing.

4. Apologize

When you are done listening, start by apologizing even if you know that the problem arose because of what the customer did. A sincere apology further improves the situation and makes the customer feel that you are on her side.
However, be careful of sounding as though you are reading from a script. That’s known to strike a raw nerve among callers.

5. Tell them what’s going to happen next

After you have determined what exactly the issue is, offer a way out. Give it your best shot and try to solve the problem immediately. Less ideal, you bump it up to higher levels and fast track it for an appropriate solution.

In case the problem can’t be solved and is beyond repair- a damaged piece of luggage or a lost shipment- follow your obligations and don’t give any impression of trying to weasel out of your side of the contract.

6. Make it up to them

Regardless of what you do in the previous step, sometimes it’s not enough to soothe frazzled nerves. Your customer was stressed through no fault of hers  and fairly or unfairly, the blame will fall upon you. You don’t want that impression. So do something that will make up for the mental stress and harassment. If you are an airline, offer her a free ticket for her next flight. If you are a shipping company, offer a complimentary gift card.

In case you are worried about getting fleeced, don’t. If you were to take the usual route and behave like an uncaring company you can be hit with lawsuits or worse, get bad press .The resulting financial loss would far outweigh the monetary value of the compensation the aggrieved customer will get out of you.

Conclusion

Mistakes happen, both with humans and companies. Most people will not be hung up on the mistake if the company takes adequate steps to correct them at the first opportunity available. It’s only when companies bury their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge their goof ups that they get a place in the customer service Hall of Shame.
What other tips do you have for dealing with unhappy customers on the phone?
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Market Research Web Editor at LiveHelpNow and Azzur Group, LLC Contributing Writer at Greatist Editorial Assistant at The Pennsylvania Gazette Reporter at Penn Law Editorial Intern at Philadelphia Magazine University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania College of Arts and Sciences King's College London, U. of London Connect with me on +Katie Siegel
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