The reality of customer service is that not all of your customers will be happy all the time. An unavoidable aspect of a customer support role is dealing with angry customers.
It’s a tough job to not only resolve their problem but to turn the bad experience into a good one. Below are seven tips to keep in mind when you’re dealing with angry customers.
1. Practice active listening
Active listening means really listening to what your customers are saying. Often, the most important thing you can do for a customer, especially an angry one, is to make sure they feel like they’re being heard. This ensures that they feel like you truly understand what they’re saying and in turn, will make them more receptive to your help.
From their emotions, tone of voice, or technical knowledge, learn how to assess what your customer is saying to determine the best way to connect with them - whether that’s a straightforward method or a more explanatory approach.
It helps to paraphrase the customer’s words back to them - this will drive home the fact that you’re not only listening but that you understand what they’re saying.
2. Be empathetic
Empathy is one of the most important qualities a support agent needs to have. Make sure that the customer feels like you not only understand their plight but can relate to their problem. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
The ability to put yourselves in their shoes and understand their frustration can go a long way to assuaging an angry customer. Try saying something like, “I completely understand - if that happened to me, I would be frustrated too.”
3. Assure the customer that you will do everything you can to help them
We’ve established that when dealing with an angry customer, it’s important to take the time to make sure they feel like they’re really being heard and empathize with their frustration.
But it’s also important to make sure they know that you’re dedicated to solving their problem.
A great tip to help achieve this is to consistently use the customer’s name during the call. This helps create a more genuine connection with the customer and show them that they’re not just a nameless case to you.
Show the customer that action will be taken to resolve their problem by outlining the steps you will take - whether that’s consulting with third parties or following up to inform them of the progress made. This shows the customer that their concern is not falling on idle ears and that you are actively trying to resolve the problem.
And if you can’t do exactly what they’re asking for, avoid just saying no. You may not be able to completely solve the customer's problem, but you can suggest alternative solutions. Reframe it in a positive way by saying what you can do instead. For example, “We’re not able to do that, but we could do X, Y, or even Z.”
4. Take ownership of the problem
It’s important to take ownership of the problem. It can be tempting to pass the blame to another department or person when a mistake has occurred, especially when there’s an angry customer on the line. But the customer isn’t concerned with who made the mistake - they’re only concerned with the issue at hand.
Passing the buck and pointing fingers is not going to help calm an irate customer. Plus, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is - at this point, it’s about the customer and the resolution.
Taking ownership and apologizing to the customer for their inconvenience helps give customers a sense that the first steps have been taken to resolve their issue.
In addition to addressing their issue, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention. This shows that you’re not only dedicated to solving the problem for them but also to making sure that it doesn’t happen to other customers.
5. Don’t take it personally
This tip is crucial. Always keep in mind that angry customers are frustrated at the situation, not you. You are bearing the brunt of their anger because you’ve given them an outlet to voice their frustration, but they are not attacking you personally.
Let the customer vent and release their pent-up anger. Allow them the opportunity to say their part before you even try to resolve the issue - interrupting them before they’re done will just agitate them further.
A co-worker used to walk around as he talked on the phone. He’d say, “motion creates emotion.” While it’s not always practical to walk around while you talk to customers on the phone, what you can to is smile when you’re greeting customers.
It may feel silly but there really is a vast difference when you talk to a customer while smiling, compared to without. The result is that you sound friendlier, nicer, and more approachable.
This tip is vital because it’s not a pleasant experience for any customer, let alone an angry one, to talk to someone who sounds monotone, bored, and emotionless. It makes them feel like you don’t want to talk to them or care about their problem.
7. Follow up and keep the customer informed
Always follow-up with the customer to reassure them that their case hasn’t fallen through the cracks. And follow up in every scenario - when the case has been resolved as well as during resolution. The latter may be required if the case turns out to be more complicated and requires more time.
Follow-ups go hand in hand with the previous point of showing that you are doing everything you can to solve their problem. It demonstrates that you care even after the initial phone call and are dedicated to resolving their issue.
If you are troubleshooting or looking into the problem while the customer on the line, put them on hold but keep them informed by letting them know what you are doing and the steps that you’re taking.
It’s not easy to deal with angry customers. Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re speaking to an irate customer to help turn the experience around and leave the customer happy with your company.