How to deal with an angry customer

Contact centre agents have to be warriors of diplomacy. There’s no way of telling what type of customer you are going to be dealing with on the next email, web chat or phone call. The written form may be a little easier when it comes to dealing with an angry customer – a phone call is not quite the same situation. Customer service skills are vital to hold on to the loyalty of those who have purchased your products or used your services. This is especially important when research has shown that, after just one bad experience, 51% of customers will never have to do business with that company again.

So, here we’re looking at how to keep your cool in the face of frustration within customer service and still provide a faultless service.

Listen

In the omnichannel world of customer service, many people may seek to answer their query without picking up the phone. So, it is likely to be the more complex and/or emotive issues which are left to be resolved by contact centre agents. In fact, 40% of people seek out a real person on the phone when they have payment disputes or complaints.

Pay full attention to all that is being said at the beginning of the call without interruption, often customers will have rehearsed what they want to say prior to calling and it is important that they are given the opportunity to fully express the issue – take notes if necessary – and highlight what points need to be tackled. Asking the caller to repeat their reasons for a call will be like showing a red flag to a bull.

Remain calm

As a contact centre agent, you’re a representative of your company. You need to uphold professional standards at all times, even if the person on the other end of the phone is behaving poorly. Take deep breaths, keep the tone of your voice as level as possible and choose your words carefully. It is worth remembering that it is often the situation or circumstances that are driving the customer reaction and not you personally.

It is in your control to keep on top of your emotions in this situation. Stress is caused by your reaction to a situation, not the situation itself. You may be concerned that you won’t be able to solve the issue or to appropriately address the complaint. Have faith in your skills, exude confidence, knowledge and professionalism and this will all help to diffuse the situation.

Show empathy

Reassure the customer that you understand their situation and recognise their concern. Saying things like ‘I can understand why this is distressing’ or ‘Yes, that definitely isn’t right – let’s solve that together now’ will help to demonstrate that you’re both on the same side. It is important to reflect this empathy in your tone of voice its not just about the words, sentiment is key.

A good contact centre agent will be driven by compassion which, according to the Zen Mind, is “feeling and understanding the pain of others and then wanting to reduce that suffering.”

By putting yourself in the shoes of your caller, you will be able to identify with their issue and this may calm some anger and provide a more neutral place to move forward from to solve the issue.

Avoid putting them on hold

Even though hitting the on-hold button is sometimes unavoidable, it is also a great way to tip an angry caller over the edge of frustration. One study found that it only took one minute of being placed on hold for a customer to end a call. So, try to stop it from happening if you can.

Instead of putting them on hold, keep talking to them – even if it is just to explain exactly what you’re doing at your end of the call, such as pulling new information up on your system. Painting verbal images helps the customer understand you are fully engaged and working to resolve their situation.

Alternatively, you may want to consider having a call back function within your system. That way, if you do need to keep a customer waiting, you’re not wasting their time whilst doing so. A poll found that 63% of customers would rather a callback than being put on hold. Providing this element of choice will allow the customer to retain a certain level of control in overcoming a tricky situation. It could also give them – and you – the time to calm down before you return to the call later.

Conflict resolution

Contact centres will have their own rules in place on how to handle tricky customers and guidelines on what to do when this situation arises. This could be anything from offering a discount to rebuild customer satisfaction and loyalty or terminating a call if it takes too many turns for the worse. Ensure all staff are fully informed on these policies and are both willing and able to use them should it be required. There may be situations where the customer asks to be transferred to a supervisor, this should not be regarded as a point for conflict “they will only tell you what I did” but as a further opportunity to resolve the issue.

Contact centre agents work hard – we know that. In order to handle call after call with skill and professionalism, a system and structure needs to be in place to ensure that procedures are being followed and standards are being met – or even surpassed.

This is where Quality Assurance comes into its own. Through mystery shopping, monitoring, coaching, training and benchmarking we can get your contact centre ahead of the game. Contact the team here at BPA Quality to find out more.

Ready to enhance your customer experience, drive improvement and deliver results? Then ask us how we can help.

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