Customer service roles can be extremely rewarding when things are going well. You deliver great, person-to-person service, interacting with the people your company tries to serve, and are often the first congratulated when things have gone well.
Unfortunately, you are also the first point of call for complaints. Quite often complaints that have come about through dealings with other aspects of the business or a product, that ultimately may not even be your fault.
This article outlines several steps that can be taken to help you deal with an angry customer.
Remember – customers are human
Many situations can lead to a customer becoming angry, frustrated, or stressed in their interactions with you. When something goes wrong, everyone from time to time gets angry. The key to good customer service, however (and ideally any role in a business) is to try and remain respectful and professional.
When dealing with customer complaints, it is important to remember that everyone is different. Some people may overreact to a faulty product while others may simply offer you the opportunity to fix it. Don’t prejudge and always listen from the outset.
Dealing with frustration, or even anger when under pressure can become an extremely useful tool and can turn a potential disaster into a loyal long term customer.
The anger could very well be justified, and in an industry where you are required to serve customers, it is important to recognise that people will not always be the way we wish them to be.
This can help maintain healthy business relations, diffuse tense situations, and help people get along – even when they don’t like each other.
Keeping Calm – Customer Service
Everyone knows how confusing, upsetting, and infuriating it is when a customer suddenly starts screaming or cussing you out.
It can be even more frustrating when you don’t know why you are the one being attacked. However, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to remain calm during these interactions.
Responding to shouting with shouting and anger is only going to escalate a situation and make it worse for everyone involved. Keep your cool, check your tongue, and don’t respond with shouting of your own.
Make an Effort to Listen
People who are angry, want to be heard. People who want to be heard, want you to listen to them. You can not properly manage conflict unless you listen.
More often than not, people can be brought down to a level of normal conversation by you making it known that you are paying attention to them.
Hear them out, summarise what they have said back to them to make sure you’ve got all the points, and make sure to keep good posture and eye contact; you should want to be able to pay close attention to the person’s complaints so that you can help address the problem.
Similarly, sympathise with them. Remember that the person who is angry at you is just that: a person who should still be treated with respect. If we’re being honest, we too have been angry at a product, service, or the way we have been treated in the course of our interactions with a company.
Recognise that something has hurt the customer, and make it clear that you understand their frustrations. Knowing that you respect them and their problems will go a long way to helping smooth over tensions.
Apologise and Rectify
It really doesn’t matter whether or not you think someone’s complaint is legitimate. If you work with customers, their feelings are what matters.
If a product has not met its standards, or a service has been inadequate, then it is your job to fix the problem.
Your apology doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be graceful.
Tell the customer that you will try and fix the problem, ask them how they feel you should deal with the problem, then assess whether or not its something you can do.
Work with them and any other staff who you may be required to run solutions by, and give a realistic answer to the problem.
Even in cases where the problem seems trivial, or indeed actually isn’t a problem, being graceful in the way you try and offer solutions goes a long way to helping a customer realise you aren’t out to get them.
It should go without saying that if you have caused a problem for a customer, then it is your responsibility to swallow your pride and apologise.
It isn’t pleasant to have angry customer name-calling or shouting, and it can be easy to try and defend yourself, counterattack, or make justifications for your actions.
Be calm, be sympathetic, and be apologetic. You might have made a genuine mistake in a service, but if you yell back the customer isn’t going to care.
Take time to Reset Yourself
After the situation is resolved, you will hopefully have a customer who is, at the very least, satisfied that they have been heard and had their problem addressed.
Before you get back to work, it is worth taking a couple of minutes to make sure you’re reset back to the way you were before the interaction.
It doesn’t matter how professionally you handle a problem, or how calm you were in doing it, the sheer act of being shouted at triggers your body’s fight-or-flight reflexes; it gets you ready for confrontation.
Trying to work whilst you feel like this is only going to hurt you, other customers, and may even result in more tempers being frayed.
Take some time to go for a quick walk, spend a few minutes in the back away from the action, or spend a little time outside.
You’ll be reset and ready to get back to helping give customers a great experience and provide the best service you can give.
Customer Service – Ask a colleague for advice
While it isn’t something that can necessarily help you in the moment of dealing with an angry customer, bringing up the situation with other co-workers can help you learn how to be better prepared in the future.
They might be able to share tips on how to remain calm in those situations with you, or might be able to help get to the route of a complaint.
At the very least, talking about the incident with friendly coworkers helps keep the incident in perspective and can help give you the resolve you need the next time you have to deal with an angry customer.