Skills for Call Center Customer Service Representative: The Irate Customer

I often have to think of issues in the call center, in order to learn, and to help others based on my past experiences.  But I found a great discussion on LinkedIn that stuck out to me and collectively raised some great points that we can all learn from.

Customer service expert Patricia Kearns raised the point that got the ball rolling.  She said “An interaction with an unhappy customer is the perfect opportunity to use your skills to enhance the customer’s loyalty to the company that you represent.  Retention and growth of the customer base is the sole determination of a company’s growth. With this value in mind, consider the steps below as a means of indicating how highly the customer’s business is appreciated. It’s really all about being respectful and objective.

* Indicate concern that the customer is upset and that you will be glad to help
* Allow the customer all the time they need to fully explain the issue
* Ask the customer if you may ask a few questions that may be helpful
* Briefly summarize back to the person, how you understand the situation they had explained
* After you have all the information that you need, again express willingness to assist
* If the issue needs to be researched, let the customer know and ask permission to call them. Provide a date and ask if the morning or afternoon is better for the call
* When or if the customer’s request is unreasonable, voice regret but give valid factual reasons why you cannot do what is being asked
* If the customer is still dissatisfied, offer to take the issue a step further and discuss with your supervisor
* After communication and customer contacts have been completed, consider if a follow up contact is appropriate. This is a step above what is normally expected, but it further strengthens the business relationship and often delights the customer.

Remember, throughout your conversation, to speak in a calm gentle manner. Your gentleness will diffuse the anger and irritation. The person’s communication will become clearer and more respectful and you will have more information to help you assist.

Turning this type of customer around is the best work that you can do for your company. It demonstrates professionalism, shows very high service skills and very importantly, it tells the customer he or she is valued and the business given is appreciated. Furthermore, this type of contact very often results in a customer commendation for the person that had provided them with that superior customer service.”

These were some points that I really agreed with.  From my past experiences, these practices are accurate and effective and I recommend people try it.

Within the discussion other experts chimed in and gave their two cents on the matter.  This proved even more of a learning tool for me.

Kenn Dillard said something that stuck to me.  She said “A few thoughts I’d like to add. First everything you stated I agree with. The understanding is that the person that has engaged the customer has to understand the following;
1. Know why everything that happens during this interaction matters.
2. Do not get pulled into the customers emotion.
3. Try not to put the customer on hold.
4. Do not make them repeat themselves.
5. If the customer is too far over the top, ask permission to do some digging and set a call back up for 30 mins or less. It gives the customer time to calm down and gives them the mid set that someone is actually doing something about it.
6. Assure them that you will call them back personally and will own the issue until it is either resolved or your Supervisor takes it.
7. Do what you say you are going to do. No excuses!

Lastly, one thing that I believe is worth saying is that everything you’ve listed has to come across naturally. That’s not as easy for a lot of people as it sounds. A customer can take it to another level if they think you’re “taking them through the motions” or talking “down to them”.“

Valencia Spearman agreed but wanted to add in one tweak that could help people benefit even further. “If the customer’s request is unreasonable, try offering a few options of what you CAN do for them. This means digging a little deeper than the surface of their request to understand the outcome they are truly looking for, but it lets them know that you are willing to work with them to get them what they need. Depending on the situation and person, telling them why you can’t do what they ask (even if it’s logical and factual) can come across as condescending or sound like you’re just quoting policies that are in the best interest of the company rather than the client.”

Tracie Simpson I found that most people do not have the patience it takes to go the extra mile and dig deeper to find what is best for the client. She said “People are always in such a hurry, they miss important signs as to what the client is even talking about. Customers do not want to hear the words, “I do not know”, “We cannot do that”. Instead say something like, “I will find out for you”, “I understand where you are coming from, however this option might be better suited to your needs”. Anything positive will make the client feel that you are on their side. All they want is to feel that connection. I agree with the other readers, on how you need to own the issue at hand and follow-through with what you tell the client. Follow-through shows the integrity of the company, not only the individual.”

I have to say, that this 5 minutes of reading really stood out to me.  Irate customers can make any agent angry, upset and even dissatisfied with their work.  its natural.  we are only human!  but there are ways to get around it.  We all think we are doing things right, but when someone else also have their experiences come into play and prove that you can do better, we should listen.  Places like this show us heavy players who have greater insight to the average reader.

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