Service failures and miscommunication often lead to unhappy, dissatisfied, or angry customers. Every organization encounters challenging situations and customers. Organizations that survive are those that can efficiently resolve customer complaints and maintain customer relationships. It is almost impossible to avoid dealing with angry customers on the telephone in this era.
Unsatisfied or angry customers must be handled with care as such customers may do grave damage to the reputation of a business through word of mouth and bad reviews. Therefore, skills for dealing with angry customers on the telephone are essential not just to the survival of a business but to its brand identity.
Here are some tips to help you manage unsatisfied/angry customers and resolve service failures efficiently:
- Remain calm: Angry or confrontational customers can often be rude or insulting; however, it is essential to remain calm when dealing with unhappy customers. The adage “Customer is King” behooves on customer service representatives to stay professional at all times when dealing with customers, no matter the disposition of the customer. When customers are rude or insulting, here are some tips to remain professional:
- Take a deep breathe: Breathing deeply when confronted by an angry customer will help you remain calm. This trick also enables you to concentrate and refocus your attention on staying professional.
- Pause: If a client is angry or difficult, taking some time out will help you defuse the situation. The silence on the telephone when you pause will give the client the impression that you are considering their point of view and allow you to evaluate your feedback.
- Repeat the details: Repeating the circumstances or issues raised by an angry client will ensure that the focus remains the source of the client's dissatisfaction.
- Listen effectively: It is essential to listen carefully to what dissatisfied customers say to get to the root of their dissatisfaction and possibly find a solution. The feedback provided by angry or dissatisfied customers can also help businesses identify gaps in service delivery. Repeating the issues raised back to the customer as rephrased statements is a powerful strategy to develop excellent listening skills. Below is an example of this skill in practice:
- After listening to the customer's complaints and taking note of key points… “My apologies for the inconvenience ma'am. You said that the order was placed on the 7th of August, and a service rep called to confirm the order on the 9th, but the wrong item was delivered to you. I will forward your complaint to the distribution company right now so that someone can come and pick up the item and deliver the proper one. Apologies for the mix-up.“
- Focus on the issues: When faced with a dissatisfied or angry customer, it is essential to focus on the issues and not on the people or personalities involved. Objectivity and critical thinking are crucial in dealing with angry customers on the phone. A strategy to ensure that you remain objective is to focus on your organization's standard operating procedures or policies. What are the issues? And what is the company policy for resolving such issues? By focusing on these and communicating your policies to the customer effectively, toxic situations can be defused, especially when the customer is responsible for the service failure. An example of such a situation is in the case of a customer that has had a product past the time limit for returning/exchanging products. Politely and professionally explaining your return policy can help you resolve the problem. Remain professional while handling such a customer.
- Empathize: It is essential to connect with angry customers on a human level and seek to understand the source of their dissatisfaction. Often when customers become angry, the damage has already been done, and they just want to be heard, feeling the person they are speaking to understands their position is the first step to regaining the trust of a dissatisfied customer. An excellent exercise to help you develop and express empathy when dealing with unhappy customers is the Mirror principle. Ask yourself how you would feel in the customer's situation.
- Proffer Solutions: Creativity and initiative are essential when dealing with angry customers on the phone. How issues are resolved will determine if the organization retains a customer or gains a source of bad publicity. The key to efficiently resolving issues is to have a good understanding of your organization's processes and policies. This is essential to enable you to identify the root of the problem and ensure that your solutions are consistent with company policy so as not to be overruled or worse – put your job in jeopardy.
Here's a simple script for putting this all together to resolve a customer complaint:
- Always greet customers on the telephone.
- Introduce the organization and yourself
- Ask how you may assist the customer.
- Listen attentively and take notes of key information such as names, order numbers, and details
- Apologize for the inconvenience to the customer or the service failure
- Provide feedback if you can or offer to call the customer back with a solution
- Thank the customer for their call/feedback
Thanks for calling ABC Inc., Elizabeth speaking, how may I help you? *Listen to the customer's narrative of the incident*
Apologies for any inconvenience, ma! Just to confirm – your order was confirmed, and a dispatcher called to say he was on his way to deliver your package but never called back or show up? *Wait for confirmation*
Kindly provide your order number and the date the order was placed so I can track the order. *Take all pertinent information*
I will follow up with the dispatch company to find out the problem. I will provide feedback on your request within 24 hours—apologies once again for the delay.
Thank you for informing us.”
Customers are an organization's most significant assets; therefore, satisfying customers must be an organization's primary focus. When service failures occur, and customers are dissatisfied or angry, the focus should be on resolving the issue as quickly as possible in a manner that is mutually beneficial to the client and the organization.
When confronted by an angry customer – remain calm, listen effectively, focus on the issues, empathize, and offer solutions to resolve conflicts and maintain relationships with customers.