27. October 2020 Blog

How to deal with angry customers on the phone? 9 easy-to-implement tips

As you know, dealing with unhappy or angry customers is a reality of any contact center employee, no matter what the company's sector and size.

Therefore, we have gathered some battle-tested ways of handling angry clients in this article to help you resolve tense situations. We have also analyzed the different types of angry customers (so it's easier for you to understand them) and recommend the best strategies to assist them.

The dangers of dealing with angry customers

Any angry customer can certainly be a risk for any company, both in terms of loyalty (as far as that particular person is concerned) and the company's reputation (more broadly).

Therefore, knowing how to handle this type of situation properly is crucial. Suppose angry customers receive impeccable attention and you manage to solve their problems optimally. In that case, they will probably remain loyal to the company and become your brand ambassadors.

Handling angry customers on the phone: main types and strategies

As you know, not all angry customers are the same. Each one has a different personality and different motives. We could say that each client gets angry in their own way.

Therefore, although the general strategies we mention can be applied to all cases, there are specific ways of dealing with different types of angry clients.

1. An angry client whose anger is justified

Surely, there are times when customers have every reason to be angry. In situations like that, the company must immediately acknowledge its mistake, apologize, and offer appropriate solutions.

If necessary, an agent should report this to their supervisor and initiate the right process to fix any issues caused by a faulty procedure. All of this should always be accompanied by words of understanding and empathy for the complaint's fairness. You should also inform the client about the next steps that will be taken to resolve their issue.

An angry client whose anger is justified can significantly damage the company's reputation if a crisis is not addressed properly. Conversely, good handling of the complaint could reinforce the company's image in the eyes of the customer.

2. Customer who is angry for no reason

Although it is no longer necessary to repeat it at this point, any contact center agent knows that really the customer is not always right. In this sense, it is not uncommon for angry customer complaints to be unfounded, unfair, irrational, or simply disproportionate.

When handling this type of angry customer, an agent must show special empathy and understanding, while presenting alternative solutions patiently or explaining the impossibility of attaining what they expect (and showing them reasonable options).

It could be useful to use phrases like: "We appreciate your opinion", "Let's do X in the next 24 hours", "I'll call you back as soon as Y".

A subtype of this kind of customer would be an abusive client who aims to obtain some unfair benefit or to use the complaint in a way close to blackmail. As you may know, it is usually not good to offer groundless compensation that could lead to a flood of similar complaints.

However, the line between being assertive and starting a fire is thin, so sometimes it is necessary to succumb to the customer's demands even if they are not entirely fair.

3. A client who insults an agent

When a customer raises their voice and insults an agent, the reaction must always be a mix of being calm and having self-control. Once the complaint has been heard without interruption, you should try to turn the situation to a calm tone and speak only about reasonable solutions and facts.

If a verbal escalation reaches excessive limits, an agent may warn the client about the consequences of their behavior and even stop the call if they do not manage to calm down after the warnings.

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General recommendations for dealing with angry customers

You already know specific types of angry customers. Now, let's move on to the main ways of dealing with them.

#1 Stay calm

When an agent is not calm in their interactions with others, they will not get through a situation with an angry client successfully. When anger is combined with disdain or sarcasm, we can only expect bad results.

Any of the above approaches towards clients are considered unprofessional. So, especially when facing difficult clients, the most important thing is to stay calm. One thing to remember is that having a clear head and staying focused and composed helps find solutions and alternatives to client complaints.

#2 Know how to listen in an empathetic way

Without doubt, an angry client (like any other client) wants to be heard. Therefore, an agent mustn't interrupt a customer who is describing their issue (whether they are right or wrong). Furthermore, the listening process should not be uninterested or passive; it is about showing empathy towards the customer's problem and a sincere concern for solving it. Small signs of assent and understanding can reassure customers and help change their attitude to a more positive one.

#3 Learn to apologize

An apology can go a long way. That's why it's important that when something unwanted happens to a customer, you're willing to apologize. Many times clients expect your apology, even when it is not appropriate. However, apologizing is always important when it comes to dealing with angry customers.

It is important to remember that the apology is often more about how a customer feels than about whatever they were actually mad about. So always be open and willing to offer an apology of some kind to angry and disappointed clients.

#4 Fulfill commitments 

On the one hand, an agent should not promise anything they cannot deliver, but on the other hand, they should make sure that the solutions they offer to a client are carried out properly. Otherwise, the client's anger will grow.

#5 Don't take things personally

By trying to define what causes a client's dissatisfaction, you can often feel as if they are personally attacking you. It is vitally important to remember that you are the face and voice of the company, and that customers see you as the one making all of the decisions that cause their concerns. Always keep in mind that you may not know what a customer is going through, so use compassion and sympathy when dealing with angry customers.

#6 Provide alternative solutions

If it is your job to find solutions to customers' problems and challenges, so always keep their satisfaction in mind. While customers will probably not be satisfied with all the alternatives you present, it is always important to provide at least one solution than admitting that you are unable to solve their issue.

Sometimes it seems almost impossible to offer a solution because there is none in sight. In such situations, offer an alternative by stating, "We would be happy to help you when you ...", and fill in the blanks.

Showing angry customers that you are looking for the best way to help them while dealing with difficult cases (instead of surrendering after learning what their problem is about) is often more than enough to gain their acceptance and appreciation. In short, take care of your customer's problems.

#7 Value their time

If an angry customer starts to feel that you are wasting their time, the conflict will escalate.

Part of having mutual respect is valuing the client's time. If your time seems so valuable, why wouldn't the client's time be too? Don't leave them waiting on the phone or, even worse, don't try to send them away by redirecting them from one department to another.

#8 Evaluate the customer

Perhaps this advice should be placed higher on the list, but it does not indicate an order of execution.

In addition to calming the client by maintaining composure, you should evaluate whether that client is a good customer for the business. Decide if it is a customer who: is always complaining (for no reason), who is consuming resources you could be devoting to other customers, and who will not increase their lifetime value by making other purchases or by cross-buying. In this case, the most sensible thing to do may actually be to let them go, on good terms. 

#9 Follow up on an angry customer’s issue

After you solve a problem, wait a few days and contact that once-angry client again. Was the problem solved? Are they satisfied with the solution? What else can you do? Of course, do not do this if the problem hasn't been resolved yet or if the situation escalated.

Providing value from interaction with an angry customer

Undoubtedly, dealing with an angry customer is a challenge for any company and, if not handled properly, may result in an even bigger conflict.

However, it is often overlooked that these situations can also represent an interesting opportunity for the company. In this sense, an angry customer:

  • provides honest and immediate feedback on situations that require improvements,
  • can serve as a starting point for a product redesign or the adjustment of deficient processes,
  • is excellent training for call center agents to broaden their knowledge of how to deal with angry customers.

Tips for handling angry customers on the phone revealed 

Everyone who works with clients will have to face a tense situation sooner or later. The main thing you (or the person in charge of dealing with your clients) should do is to listen carefully, even if the client is in the wrong…

Treat angry customers as a challenge, but also as an opportunity to learn what areas of the company, and within the contact center, require improvements. Your response to a customer's anger (justified or not) makes the difference between a satisfied customer and one who leaves your company for your competitors. Without a doubt, knowing how to take advantage of this type of situation is a sign of a company's maturity that users tend to appreciate.

If you want to deal with angry customers on the phone more effectively, give CloudTalk a try.