9 Effective Ways To Handle Angry Customers (with Examples)
Dealing with angry customers is frequently part of everyday routine of customer support agents. Most of us would probably react offensively if we talked to an upset or insolent clients. However, for customer support professionals, it is important to keep it cool and follow several principles which can lead to positive outcome and retain the customer. What are the principles?
If you work as a contact center agent, you’ll have to deal with angry customers sooner or later. That’s just part of the story.
But, to slightly modify a famous Charles R. Swindoll quote, the quality of your daily life as a contact center agent depends 10% on what happens and 90% on how you react to it.
In this article, we prepared some essential tips for you on how to handle irate customers in the best possible way.
Why Is It Important to Help Upset Customers
No matter how great a business is, sometimes things don’t go according to plan and customers get upset. The problem starts when nobody deals with them properly.
What happens when a customer is unhappy with a company? They might ask for a refund or suspend their membership. There’s also a high chance that they’ll post bad reviews about their experience, warning others to stay away from the company.
It’s not hard to figure out that such actions can lead to churn, loss of revenue, and trust.
Customers pay to get great support, and they have every right to be upset with an unhelpful, reckless, or rude agent.
On the other hand, if angry clients get outstanding customer service with an effective solution to their problem, they might even leave more satisfied. They accept that mistakes happen, and will be sure to leave a top-star rating about your assistance.
If you learn the necessary soft skills, you’ll also make your daily life as a contact center agent more pleasant, and you’ll likely be able to handle conflicts in your personal life better.
How to Deal With Angry Customers
We compiled the most important principles on how to deal with irate customers as a contact center agent. Keep them in mind, print them and keep them next to your computer if you prefer: handling difficult customers will never be a problem for you again.
1. Improve Your Active Listening Skills
The first step of handling an angry customer is not figuring out what to say.
The first step is to learn to listen.
But, listening doesn’t just mean letting the other person talk while you’re silent.
You need to listen in a way that makes the customer feel heard.
Even if there’s no solution to the problem, or you find it unjustified, your first job is to acknowledge that the customer is unhappy and understand their point of view without judgment.
How to practice active listening:
- Never cut into your customer’s words. Even if you’ve heard the same problem the 20th time that day, don’t rush them by finishing their sentences. Acknowledge that they matter and show patience. Whatever it is they’re dealing with, don’t trivialize it.
- Take notes during the conversation. Get down every detail so that you can be efficient when finding a solution. Thus, you won’t waste the customer’s time by having them repeat the whole story. Write down the customer’s own words, so you don’t fall into a Chinese whisperers trap when you have to escalate the issue to other departments. To avoid this, you can also use call center tools like CloudTalk’s Call Notes and Call Tags. That way, each of your colleagues sees what was the customer’s issue about.”
- Use verbal cues. Occasionally, use positive words to show that you’re paying attention. This can be as simple as “Oh I see!” or “Yes”.
- Ask questions – never assume. Don’t try to fill in the gaps by yourself. Asking questions about the situation is another way to show the customer that you’re ready to help, and getting as much information as possible helps you crack the case faster.
- Summarize, paraphrase and repeat back the issue. While continuously asking the customer to repeat the issue shows that you’re not listening, asking for confirmation through paraphrasing and summarizing does the opposite. You can start your sentences like this: “So if I understand correctly, the issue is..” or “Just to make sure I got it correctly, what you’re dealing with is..” and then summarize the issue in a few keywords. But, don’t trivialize the problem. Summarizing also helps you make sure you truly understand what needs fixing.
2. Be The First One To Apologize
Before providing a solution, be sure to apologize for the inconvenience the customer is having. Even if you don’t agree with the situation, a genuine “sorry” can go a long way.
How to apologize the right way:
- Don’t just throw in a few meaningless ‘sorry’s. Make your message specific. For example: “I’m sorry to hear you’re experiencing an issue with the internet connection today” or “We’re truly sorry you had a bad experience with the quality of the product”. Without specifying, it may sound like you’re not actually sorry at all.
- Make your apology solution-oriented. While an apology is important to keep a customer feeling good, it’s still empty unless you pair it with the promise of a solution. For example: “I’m sorry that your package hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to contact the logistics department right now, could you please hold for a moment?” or “I’m sorry about your bad experience, please give me a moment to initiate the refund process.”
3. Show Empathy
Showing empathy to your customers means that you try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they go through. Even if you can’t fully understand why they lose their temper over a seemingly insignificant detail, remember that you can never know anybody’s full story. They might be going through something that you have no idea about.
But even if they aren’t, treat them as if they were, and you’ll automatically deal with them with more empathy.
How to show empathy to your customers:
- Use empathy statements – phrases that convey empathy. For example, “I see how difficult this can be.” or “I understand why it puts you in a bad position, let me help you”.
- Don’t judge. Sometimes, the issues customers deal with don’t actually exist. For example, they didn’t find a piece of information or a button on the screen that, for you, is obvious. Don’t make them feel bad for mixing things up or missing something. It happens to the best of us.
- Think like a customer. When we know too much about a topic, the curse of knowledge prevents us from understanding how it feels to be a beginner. Think back to the time when you knew as little about the products as the average client. It will help you empathize with frustrated customers.
4. Remain Calm
How could you calm someone down without being calm yourself?
No matter how strong the urge is, avoid fighting back at all costs. You are a professional, representing a company, which is paid by the very same people that you’re dealing with.
How to remain calm
- Practice potential responses. If you struggle with formulating good responses on the fly, write down a few answers to the most common scenarios and practice reading them in a calm, friendly voice. If you have trouble reacting, you may use real-time help from your supervisor.
- Ask your supervisor for feedback. They’ll be glad to give you pointers on your previous calls, and let you know if you sound frustrated, upset, or passive-aggressive. With CloudTalk features such as Call Monitoring or 3-way Calling, you can invite your supervisor to be in the call and help you without the customer knowing about it.
- Avoid negative thoughts or venting to coworkers. A little venting can be helpful. Yet, if you catch yourself often having negative comments about the customers you’re dealing with (whether it’s in the breakroom, or just in your head), you’ll automatically feel less patient and empathetic while interacting with them. Instead, try to always put yourself in your customers’ shoes, even when just thinking about them. This prevents you from getting too annoyed.
5. Don’t Take Anything Personally
If you still struggle with remaining calm, learning to take a step back and not taking the insults personally can help.
It’s not just a tactic to make you feel better: customer insults are really not personal.
Sure, some clients tend to get into personal attacks quickly when they’re upset. But even if they comment on your voice, style, or assumed background, always remember that they were already agitated before they even knew that they would talk to you.
Granted, this doesn’t make it any more pleasant to deal with raging clients, but with patience and a relaxed voice, you’ll often find the same customer switching to a friendlier voice soon.
How not to take the insult personally
- Keep reminding yourself that you’re the middleman, not the target. The customers are angry with the products or services they paid for, not you.
- Ask your supervisor and experienced colleagues for advice. Every contact center agent goes through the same process. Those who have been working with customers for a long time and still look motivated have developed the right toolkit to avoid taking unpleasant interactions too personally. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains!
6. Use the Customer’s Name
According to Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends & Influence People, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Remembering and using your customers’ names helps form and strengthen relationships and build trust.
How to get it right:
- Remember the caller’s name. If you have trouble remembering names, jot it down as soon as you hear it, and use CloudTalk’s Real-Time Customer Card tool to always see information about the customer while talking to them.
- Don’t say your customer’s name too often. If you try to insert your customer’s name after every sentence, it’ll feel forced and unnatural.
- Avoid assumed nicknames. If the customer introduced herself as Samantha, don’t call her Sam. Some people detest their nicknames, which might irritate them even further when they’re already upset.
- Mirror their style. Some customers, depending on their age or cultural background, might find hearing their first names from you annoying or disrespectful. Mirror their level of formality: if they prefer to talk to you formally, it’s best to stick to Mr/Ms or Sir/Madam.
7. Stay Positive and Always Provide a Solution
Although it might be different than what the customer expects, there’s always a solution.
Assure your customer that you will find the best possible scenario for their issue. A good customer service representative never uses the word “no” – or its variations, such as “it’s not possible”, “we can’t” or ”it can’t be done”. Even if it’s not the perfect solution, the person on the other side of the line will be happier to hear what you CAN do for them.
How to find a solution:
- Never overpromise. Commit to what you know is possible. For example, instead of saying “I’ll fix this for you” say “Let me take a moment to look into the best options for compensating you”. Saying what you already know is possible prevents you from keeping your customer’s hopes up (e.g promising a product fix or a refund which is not possible). That makes the situation even worse.
- Always know who to reach. You don’t need to know the answer to every question, but it helps to know where to find them fast.
8. Keep the Conversation Factual
When a customer is overwhelmed with negative emotions no matter what you try, it’s best to steer the conversation toward cold facts. Simply outline the situation to the customer, which helps them to focus on providing information instead of venting.
How to stay factual:
- Use statements that help the conversation stay factual. You can start with a sentence like: “Let me check if I’ve got all the facts straight” and then summarize the issue. To get more details, you can ask: “Is there anything else about the situation I need to know?”
- Offer to bring in the supervisor or a different agent. You can mention in a calm voice: “To guarantee we find the best possible solution, may I bring my supervisor into the call?” or “To provide you with the best support regarding X, let me transfer this call to our highest-skilled agent specified in this area“
9. Stay Loyal to Your Company
It might be tempting to agree with the customer about his negative experience just to get out of the unpleasant situation and avoid further conflict. But don’t forget that, no matter what, you’re representing the company you work for.
This doesn’t mean that you have to lie – you can admit if the company made a mistake – but you should always avoid badmouthing the place you work for.
How to avoid going against your company
- Always stay diplomatic. Remember that the issue is between the company and the customer: you’re a middleman, helping to soothe the situation. While you should always empathize with the customer, don’t choose their side or join in on the venting.
- Do what’s best for the client as well as for the company. Most companies know that their number one priority should be treating their customers right. Taking the company’s side and looking out for your customer can therefore coexist.
We hope that following our advice will serve as a toolkit for the next time you have to deal with irate customers. The best is to follow them in order; however, even just picking out one of these tips will help you handle angry customers better and stay calmer.
Interested in how CloudTalk can make your daily call center life easier? Book a free demo with us!