How to Deal With an Angry Customer on the Phone

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone

As a customer service agent or a business person, situations may arise that will put you in a desperate position when it comes to work-related phone calls. One of these awkward situations is when you have to deal with an angry customer on the phone. This is particularly tough if this customer is totally unreasonable. When dealing with an angry customer during a business phone call, there are certain important points to bear in mind.

Before we go through the essential points on dealing with an angry customer on the phone, let us establish some facts. First, your customer is the reason why you are doing business in the first place. You should not take anyone for granted. Second, you are the face of the company, your attitude and actions are considered those of the company. Therefore, be careful how you handle the situation.

Finally, you are just doing your job. It is your duty to do what you are doing, so consider this situation more like one of the ‘hazards’ of your job, and nothing more. In essence, deal with the situation!

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Listen to the Angry Customer

During a business phone call that involves an angry customer, one very important skill that will help to resolve the situation is your ability to listen keenly. An angry person has a primary need in a communication encounter and this is the need to be heard. You may also want to put down the major points that the caller is making in order not to forget so that they will be properly addressed.

The bulk of your work as a professional would be done by exercising effective listening skills. This will not only give an insight into the core of the problem but you may end up gaining a loyal customer if this experience is well handled with the right responses. However, if the customer becomes impossible, and starts threatening or cursing, ensure you follow your company’s guideline on how to handle this.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Don’t Get Personal

As mentioned earlier, you are the representative of your company that the customer can speak to. You are simply doing your job. Although the customer’s anger is going straight at you, it is not directed at you. His or her frustration is with the company. These customers are well aware of this fact. Therefore, it is completely futile to let anything an angry customer says or does to upset you in any way.

There is no need to get angry and talk back at the customer even if he or she says demeaning things about the company, or you. If you respond this way, you would end up protracting the situation and putting your employment under threat. Besides the fact that your phone call is being monitored, the customer may send an official complaint about you.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Be Very Patient

Remain calm and listen to the customer patiently. This will give an angry customer time to completely vent his or her anger, and also helps in calming them down. Endeavor not to interrupt an angry customer, this could frustrate him or her all the more and escalate the situation. It would not hurt you to just wait patiently and hear them out. If you must speak while he or she is still talking, take permission politely and let your tone be even and calm. The customer should know from the tone of your voice that you do not intend to cut him or her off, but that you needed to have clarity, and that you would like to continue listening.

If the customer gets verbally abusive, calmly make it clear to him or her that, while you are there to help, there is little you can do if they continue to insult you. Encourage him or her to stay focused on the issue at hand, and reassure them that you would like to resolve whatever the problem is.  In being patient, also realize you do not have all day to this customer, therefore, gently direct the conversation to an amicable resolution. If the insults and abuse persist, especially if they are accompanied with threats, follow your company’s policy regarding such a scenario, as earlier noted.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Show Empathy

After the caller is done talking, it is important to show empathy. Showing empathy is a professional way of helping the customer stay calm and also genuinely seeking to effectively help the customer. Empathy is simply putting “yourself” in an angry customer’s shoes. How would you feel if you were the one in his or her situation, how would you like to be treated? Answering these questions can help you stay calm and focused. It will also help you have a sincere motivation to resolve the customer’s queries.

One way to show professionalism, encourage familiarity and calm an angry customer is to call them by name when talking to them. This is effective even for other calmer situations. It particularly strengthens empathy. Therefore, say the customer’s name. Most times in customer care, customers are addressed on first name basis. But you may also address the customer formally.

Sample script:

“Mr Andrews, the situation you just described is quite sad and unfortunate, no one should be made to go through it, and believe me, sir, I will do my best to resolve it. The company has your best interest at heart”.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Repeat the Information

Politely repeat the information that the customer has provided in order for him or her to verify if you got everything right. Do this whether you heard everything right or not. First, you actually need to be sure you got all the customer’s complaints right. Second, this helps to calm an angry customer by showing that you were actually listening and you are passionate about resolving his or her queries.

Sample script:

“My sincere apologies Mr Andrews. You mentioned that the main problem is that the plug of the washing machine we delivered to your home was damaged and that you experienced an electric shock when you inserted it into a power source”.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Apologize If Necessary

Although apologizing to an angry customer may not look like the ideal thing to do because of how you may be feeling, it is, however, an effective way of resolving the problem. It is possible that the entire fault may rest on the customer. For instance, he or she did not read the manual of an appliance before using it, and this led to it getting damaged.

Apologizing does not necessarily mean that the customer is right, it does not also mean that you are accepting blame on behalf of the company. But in order to resolve the issue, you should let him or her feel you are on his or her side. Showing empathy, repeating the information given by the customer, and apologizing will help calm most reasonable angry customers.

Sample script:

“Mr Andrews, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and trauma you experienced because of the faulty washing machine that was delivered. On behalf of Jason and Cooper Incorporated, I am so sorry”.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Don’t ‘Hold’ an Angry Customer

When handling an angry customer during a business phone conversation, do not put the customer on hold. Avoid this as much as you can. If you had been told that this helps calm an angry customer, then you had been misled! The complete opposite usually happens. The situation will likely get escalated. Hence, it will become more challenging to handle it.

The customer would assume a lot of negative things when you put them on hold. Some may think that you did so to punish their ‘rude’ behavior towards you. Others may take it that you and the company are clueless on how to handle the situation. The more unreasonable ones may even assume that you did this to insult them in such a way that they cannot hear you.

When trying to resolve an angry customer’s query, rather than place the call on hold, talk to them as you do so. Engage them intelligibly and calmly. Of course, there will times you will need to concentrate on what you are doing, but you need to let them know that you trying to resolve their issues and that you are still with them.

Sample script:

“Mr Andrews, I am checking up the purchase you made…please stay with me sir…I have seen the model of the washing machine…please bear with me as I contact the engineering department…done!…Mr Andrews, thanks for your patience, two technicians are on their way to your apartment to pick up the washing machine and replace it with another. Once again, we are sorry for this situation”.

Dealing With an Angry Customer on the Phone – Resolve the Issue

The whole reason for the customer’s frustration is one issue or the other. Therefore, your best bet to pacifying an angry customer is to resolve the issue that is causing his or her pain. As noted in the preceding paragraph, the issue is resolved while the customer is on the call, never while on hold. Keep in mind that an issue is only resolved when the customer feels that that is the case. Hence, you will need to verify if the customer is satisfied with the solution you have provided.

In some cases, depending on your company policy, you may have to compensate the customer in some way, for instance, giving a voucher.

Sample script:

[Continuing from the sample in the previous point]…”Mr Andrews, hope you are satisfied with this solution? Please let me know if there is any other thing we can do…Meanwhile, I have just emailed you a $200 shopping coupon from the company, to be used to purchase anything you want at Wal-Mart…We know that it cannot compensate you for the trauma you experienced, but please accept it as our way of saying we are sorry”.  

Edited by Kelechi Duru

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