How to Deal with Angry Customers on the Phone

I already discussed this not long ago, but it seems like it’s a popular topic as I continue to be asked how to deal with angry customers on the phone. Well, it’s a common occurrence, to have hostile, even belligerent customers call in, but most of the time, it’s not the customer’s fault they are angry.

It’s not necessarily the fault of the company either, sometimes it’s just a result of circumstances in general. But, let’s look a little more at how to deal with angry customers on the phone. There’s a limit to what you can do to handle this, and most of it’s just understanding psychology and the human animal to an extended level.

But first, let’s look at why they’re probably angry. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a minute (empathy, something I’ll talk about as a concept in just a bit here). The customer has either had a problem with billing, a defective product, or an interruption of service that they frankly haven’t time for.

In order to remedy this nonsense, they must now take time out of their day to call your company to complain and seek resolution. To do this, they must endure a lengthy phone tree to be directed to the right department, which is often not as clear cut as it sounds, even. Then, they must wait on hold for heaven knows how long, while looped music and often advertisements keep wearing them down, like siege victims in Vietnam.

So yeah … a customer is going to, half the time, be very angry and very hostile when they finally hear from a human being.

So, the first thing that you have to accept is that they may have some pent up aggression and frustration they will need to vent before anything constructive can be accomplished. Allow them to do this, and take nothing they say personally. It may be pretty rough, it may even be offensive.

Once they have gotten this initial burst of anger and annoyance out of their system, the next thing to do is to show empathy, as I discussed before. Relate to their frustration, and assure them that you too have been in their situation before, frustrated and in need of a help, with the call centers just rubbing salt into the wound.

Gain their empathy in this way as well, so that both will establish some level of trust and civility. Communication is important, and any aggression or defensiveness will interfere with this communication to calamitous ends.

Only then can problems be described, addressed and hopefully resolved. In the event that a customer is inconsolable, then you must default to the old tactic of referring them to someone of significant enough authority to offer them some consolation beyond what is within your power.

This is all the choice you really have pertaining to how to deal with angry customers on the phone. It’s kind of a toss up, and it’s important to remember that there will be times when nothing can be done but to walk away with no resolution possible, unfortunately.

 

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Stefanie Amini
is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe