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dealing with angry customers

Dealing with angry customers is something that most front line customer service people worry about. In fact, “How do I deal with angry customers?” is one of the most asked questions on our customer service training courses.  Recent research shows that a customer service role can be the 5th or 11th most stressful job (depending on which survey you read) and that’s after roles like front line soldiers, paramedics and police officers.

We want to help you make sure that you have some brilliant tips, that work in the real world, at your fingertips to avoid the traps and pitfalls when dealing with unhappy customers, so that you:-

Retain Customers

Get it right and you are able to help a customer even when they are unhappy and when things have gone wrong. Customer retention is a key metric for any business. Why spend money, time and effort winning new business, while you are losing your existing customers because of a poor experience?

Reduce Escalations

Helping angry customers helpfully and confidently releases team leaders and managers from escalations. Reducing escalation means that line managers have time to concentrate on putting right the things that might be causing the complaints in the first place.

Reduce stress levels – create a better working environment

Being shouted at is not pleasant. If we are not trained to help customers when they are unhappy we may be exacerbating the situation, and feeling the pain of that as well.

Stress levels rise.

Customers continue to be angry.

Employees disengage.

Here are tips on helping angry customers. Real ways to help an angry customer.

Dealing with angry customers Tip#1 – Say you’re sorry

Number one, but sadly often overlooked, an apology. Some companies are convinced that it is a sign of weakness to apologise, and yet all customers, especially when angry want to hear those magic words “I’m sorry”. It’s a programmed, conditioned human response that we want to hear. When something goes wrong, we expect to hear those magic words.

If we don’t, it fuels our anger.

Not only that, people want to hear a well phrased, sincere apology, “All I can do is apologise” will not help calm someone down, it diminishes the apology, and it makes it sound as though you don’t care.

Dealing with angry customers Tip#2 – Be sincere

Try “I’m sorry you’ve had that experience, let me see what I can do to help you”

Or “I’m sorry that has happened, let’s see what I can do to help you now”

This will help while you investigate the situation.

Dealing with angry customers Tip #3 – Be part of the solution not part of the problem

When we are angry the customer asks themselves at a very subconscious level

“Am I dealing with someone who is part of the solution or part of the problem? Someone who can help me or someone who will hinder me?”

How do you demonstrate you are part of the solution?

We’ve listened to thousands of customer service calls and when they go wrong, it’s often because the employee ( however well intentioned ) uses language which signals they are part of the problem.

Change the language you use at the beginning of the call so that  you don’t trigger the customer’s anger. Phrases such as

“I’m sorry that you haven’t had a call back, that’s very unusual, let’s see what I can do to help you now.”

This is a good place to start.

There is both an apology, and a very strong signal that you want to help sort out the problem. Your first impressions are strong. If this is followed by a question, you are in control of the call, a verbal handshake or a bridge can help.

Dealing with angry customers Tip #4 -Bridging

This is an important skill in any conversation, but it is crucial when dealing with a complaint or an unhappy customer.

What do we mean by a bridge? Well, it’s simply a few words which link you to your next question. The absence of bridging in call centres is often as a result of very strong call handling scripts, or routines. Most call centre processes will ask that agents get the account number first, so that the account history can be checked and the problem sorted:-

Customer “I’m really unhappy you are the fifth person I’ve spoken to in three days, no-one has called me back as promised”

Employee “What’s your account number?”

The customer has stated quite clearly that they are unhappy. Their unhappiness has not been acknowledged.

What does that exchange sound like, and more importantly feel like to the customer?

Yes, you’ve got it, indifference. This may trigger more anger. What’s required is a simple bridge:-

Employee “I’m sorry that you’ve had that experience, my name’s Janet, can I take your name please?”

Customer “It’s Alan Brown”

Employee “ Now, Alan, I’m going to do everything I can to sort this out for you now, first of all, do you have your account number to hand, so that I can look at your details, and find out how I can best help you?”

A few extra words take control of the call and builds confidence that Janet will help the customer.

Dealing with angry customers Tip #5 – Listen; really listen

It’s really important, especially if you are looking at a computer screen to read file notes, policies or account histories, that you pay attention to what the customer is saying.  A customer who has to repeat him or herself will get more annoyed and angry.

Make the customer feel listened to and valued.

Dealing with angry customers Tip #6 –  Be positive

The customer wants you to solve their problem for them. Think about what you say and how you say it – it will have a huge impact on the customer and the call.

Dealing with angry customers Tip #7 –  Do what you say you will do

If you make a promise; keep it. Taking action means you remain part of the solution. Not taking action means you become part of the problem.

Dealing with angry customers Tip # 8 – Get to the heart of the matter

What caused that customer to complain? If you are getting lots of complaints about the same thing, something needs to change in your processes or training to prevent those complaints from happening.

We love it when we see senior managers talking to customers; front of house or in the contact centres. They have the ability to make things happen and sort things out quickly.

Make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place

Aim high, and make sure your customers have a great customer experience.  That’s the quickest way to cut the number of complaints that you have.

These are just some of our approaches to handling complaint calls and angry customers.  They are tried and tested and make a big difference. If someone gets more than their fair share of angry customers, it is highly likely that they are doing something to trigger that anger in the first stages of the call.

We chose the name Intelligent Dialogue, because it means a conversation full of understanding. That’s so important when dealing with customers, but with unhappy ones it’s essential.

If you are a manager or work in a Learning & Development function and need to upskill and build confidence in your customer facing people, then we can help you think through how you might do this. And, of course, we’d love to help, with one of our training courses or development programmes.

We specialise in tailored development programmes that reflect the reality of your customer conversations.

If you’d like to discuss the challenges your people face, then call us now on 0845 450 0988 or get in touch here