5 Steps to Dealing with Upset Callers

There are few customer service interactions more powerful than the conversations we share with callers. Every time the phone rings, there is a new opportunity to convert a casual shopper into a lifelong fan. Of course, not every phone call begins on the right foot. When an angry or frustrated caller dials in for assistance, that conversation may set the tone for all future interactions with that customer. Successfully address the concerns of an angry caller in a professional manner and you may endear them to you for a long time to come.

Learning how to deal with angry customers doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are five strategies to try the next time you have an irate caller on the line:

Stay Calm

Call Center Agent Answering Calls

Nobody enjoys conflict. It can be challenging to be on the receiving end of a caller’s anger. When deciding how to deal with angry customers, it helps to remain as calm as possible. Preventing the conversation from escalating is key. For starters, monitor your tone as you speak. A condescending, agitated, or impatient tone can make an uncomfortable conversation even less fun. Try to keep in mind that the caller isn’t upset with you personally, they are simply frustrated with the situation.

It helps to put yourself in their shoes and to imagine how frustrated you might be in their situation. Working from a place of empathy is always important in the customer service world, but it’s never more crucial than when learning how to deescalate an angry customer. By taking a few deep breaths and putting yourself in the customer’s place, it’s easier to assist them – even when they become angry or upset.

Actively Listen

When learning how to deal with upset customers, there are few skills more important than active listening. Before you can defuse any situation, you have to understand the context. Callers often want to vent their frustrations before their concern is immediately resolved. Give your customers the chance to air their grievances before you rush in with a solution. Many times, after a few moments of venting, callers will even apologize and give you the chance to solve the issue without any additional anger.

As you listen to the caller, make sure to take notes about their concern. Frustrated customers may go off on tangents and be hard to follow at times – do your best to follow their lead. Taking notes can help you find quick solutions to the issue at hand. It also keeps you focused on the task of actively listening.

Ask follow up questions to show you understand what they have conveyed to you. This will also indicate to them that you not only hear them but that you are invested in the conversation and are want to work towards a solution.

Most people are good at talking and not so good at listening. In fact, many of us don’t listen well at all – we’re just simply waiting for our turn to talk. Active listening requires patience, understanding, and empathy. To ensure that you’re listening as actively as possible, make sure you can accurately summarize their concerns. Phrases like “what I hear you saying is” can help you demonstrate that you’re listening and fully comprehending their concerns.

Verify Information

A big part of active listening is verifying the information as it is given. When deescalating phone calls, it’s important to make the caller feel as though you’re on their side. You can apologize and express empathy, but the best way to affirm you are there to help is to summarize their main points.

However, there is a fine line to walk here. Agitated callers don’t like repeating themselves. Verifying every little piece of info might only push them further down the road of rage. Taking a moment to verify the highlights is usually a good move though. Ensuring you understand the reason for the call will give you a chance to contextualize the customer’s concerns and give them a moment to catch their breath. After a few moments of listening, they may return to the conversation with a renewed sense of calm!

Resist the Hold Button

Some issues are handled quickly and routinely. Others require careful verification, communication with other departments, and thorough research. While you might think to place an irate caller on hold might give them a chance to calm down, this strategy can do more harm than good. Additional hold time only contributes to their frustration and gives their anger time to fester.

Rather than place a caller on hold while you research a solution, talk them through your process. Let them know exactly what you’re doing and why. Talking to an angry caller about your progress can help keep their expectations realistic and humanize your efforts. When customers know you’re taking the time to address the issue, the tension eases.

Delight the Caller

Once you’ve researched the issue, it’s time to delight the caller in any way you can. You might not always have a perfect solution, but presenting the caller with a few different options can help give them a sense of ownership over the situation. Explain the options and how long each will take to implement. Give the caller some control over their fate.

When available, consider offering the caller a voucher or gift certificate for their trouble. A small gesture on your part can go a long way in convincing the customer to give your organization another chance to make things right. Before you end the call, ask if there is anything else you can assist with – or if there is anything more you can do to solve the issue at hand.

Learning how to handle upset customers is an art, not a science. You may develop your own techniques and strategies for speaking with frustrated callers. Having a full toolbox of tactics is often necessary because not all angry callers are the same. A strategy that works with one may not have the same desired impact with another.

If you prefer to leave this delicate process to the professionals, consider working with MAP Communications. Many great companies have chosen to outsource their customer service call center functions to our talented, US-based team. We’ve spent decades assisting businesses of all varieties and sizes with these exact kinds of conversations. Contact us to learn more about our strategies for delighting callers!

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