Customer Service Problems – How to Handle Angry Or Irate Customers
The 10 Steps and 1 to Grow On
1. Prepare yourself
2. Let them vent their anger
4. Verify for understanding
5. Empathize with these customers
6. Ask what they would like done to solve the problem
7. Get agreement
9. Conclude the call
10. Follow up
11. Take care of yourself
1. The Call – Prepare Yourself
The first step to take when dealing with an angry or irate customer is to prepare your self. Sit up straight, make sure your posture is good, put a smile on your face, and take a deep breath. In many cases, you’ll have to prepare yourself while the customer is on the line. Of course, don’t take that deep breath directly into the phone, but do take a deep breath, and do prepare yourself. In some cases, you’ll know you’re about to work with an irate customer momentarily. Your office mate may field the call and toss you “that look” as he or she transfers the call to you. (You know “that look”; it communicates, “Boy, do I have a customer for you!”) Before answering the call, take one or two seconds to prepare yourself. Then pick up the line and begin the call flow process we describe below.
2. Let Them Vent Their Anger
The second step is letting angry and irate customers vent their anger. You need to allow these customers to vent from beginning to end. And don’t interrupt. Unlike the typical call flow process we discussed earlier, don’t use short messages with irate customers. The odd thing about these customers is that they have a “tape recorder” in their heads. When they call, they’ve already prepared their speeches. They’ve been practicing, and you’re going to hear it-all of it. If you interrupt their speeches with short messages such as “I see” or “I understand,” angry or irate customers push stop on their “tape recorder,” hit rewind, go back to the beginning, and play the whole tape again. So you need to allow these customers to vent without any interruptions.
The third step in dealing with angry or irate customers is listening. In addition, we recommend you take notes. Taking notes forces you to actively listen. Plus, you’ll be able to refer back to your notes later in your conversation.
4. Verify for Understanding
The fourth step in handling angry or irate customers is verifying what they have communicated to you to ensure you understand the situation. Repeat their central messages to them-word for word. Do not paraphrase. What can happen if we paraphrase an angry or irate customer’s message, but we get it wrong?
The customer just gets madder. He or she might pound a fist on the desk and declare, “That’s not what I said! You weren’t listening!” By repeating the problem word for word, the angry customer will agree with your statement, and you will be able to verify the problem for your understanding.
There are two advantages to verifying for understanding. The first is that you have a better opportunity to correctly identify the problem. Second, repeating the problem or situation in their own words means they will agree with your description, and they will agree with you because you will be correct. One of the keys to handling angry and irate customers is getting them to agree to anything as quickly as possible. This step is your first opportunity to get these customers to agree with you.
5. Empathize with Them
Providing an empathy statement is a critical step in the call flow process when dealing with angry and irate customers. Remember, each of these steps is designed to defuse these difficult customers, and we’re guiding these customers to a point where we can provide them with both service and solutions.
6. Ask What They Would Like Done to Solve the Problem
Next in the call flow process for working with angry or irate customers, you’ll want to determine what these customers need, respond to their needs, and get their input on the action plan. Determine customers’ needs by asking open-ended and close-ended questions. Ask enough questions to get all the information you need. And be sure not to paraphrase their responses-repeat the information word for word.
Next, respond to their needs by developing a plan of action to resolve their problem. If they don’t agree with the plan you propose, find out what they would like to see as a solution. At this point, you can determine if they are unrealistic as well as angry. However, most customers are defused by this time in the conversation, and they’ll be calm and realistic.
So ask these customers what they’d like to see for a solution. If they’re still angry, their response might be, “Just fix it.” Or their response could be unrealistic. But it’s possible they have some suggestions you haven’t thought of. In fact, you might come up with more than one plausible plan for resolution. Keep in mind that customers love alternatives, and giving them options (if you can) is a real treat for them.
Getting your customers involved in the resolution process means they’ll be part owners of the solutions. When they help you determine the action plan, they’re more apt to buy into the solution. In addition, it’s difficult for them to come back to the help desk and claim you didn’t do your job if they helped arrive at the solution. So ask these customers what they would like to see as a solution, and, together, determine a plan for resolution.
7. Get Agreement
Next, you want to get agreement with angry or irate customers. You’ll want to follow the same strategy for getting agreement. Getting agreement is the step in which you and your customers jointly finalize the action plans you’ll take to solve the problem. Remember; don’t impose an action plan on customers. To achieve customer satisfaction, you need to give them the opportunity to verbally accept the action plan you propose. This step can be as brief and informal as asking, “Does this direction sound like the way to go?” And their reply: “Sounds good to me.”
The next step in our call flow process for handling angry or irate customers is to apologize. Now, some customer support professionals may argue that there’s no need to apologize if you didn’t cause the problem. In addition, you may not feel comfortable making apologies to customers.
However, from a customer service standpoint, you have nothing to lose by apologizing and everything to gain-if you are sincere. Customers usually respond positively when you apologize. In fact, they may apologize to you for their behavior. This step in the call flow process can make a big difference when dealing with difficult customers-again, if you are sincere.
If you are unable to apologize using a sincere tone of voice, don’t apologize. The wrong tone of voice will come across negatively, and your customer will know your apology is not sincere. A misstep here can completely destroy everything you’ve gained up to this point.
9. Conclude the Call
The next step is to conclude the call. When dealing with angry or irate customers, in particular, be sure they are completely finished before you hang up.
10. Follow Up
You may want to follow up with angry and irate customers. Even though you have defused the situation, solved the problem, and provided good customer service, you might consider making a follow-up call to these customers. You want them to remember their positive contacts with your help desk or support center, and a follow-up call can help achieve that.
11. Finally, take care of yourself
This is an extremely important step. Handling angry and irate customers can be very stressful, and you need to be sure you have a calm, positive attitude before taking your next call or handling your next ticket. This may mean taking a few minutes away from your desk for a quick break. Just be sure to take care of yourself, so you can provide solutions and service to your next customer.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post…be sure to check my other posts as well…maybe you’ll find something as helpful as this post.