Customer service staff understand that dealing with irate people is an unfortunate aspect of their job. Sometimes customers will be rude for no reason. Other times, they may be justified. Either way, how you respond can make the difference between a satisfied or frustrated customer.
How to Effectively Handle Irate or Angry Customers
1. Stay Calm and Don’t Take it Personally
Customers sometimes yell or speak rudely to service staff because they think they can get away with it, but there’s nothing to be gained by responding in a similar way. If a customer is already angry, you’ll likely escalate the situation (or lose your job) if you let them get the better of you.
Instead, listen to what your customer has to say and don’t take it personally. Sometimes their tone can make them seem like they’re angry at you, but they’re typically upset at the situation. Unless they’re being abusive (i.e., calling you names), hear them out and try to stay calm.
Now, if you are getting affected by all the negativity and you’re drinking heavily to cope with your job, consider contacting this center for their alcohol rehab program. They can help you manage your anger and your alcohol consumption.
2. Use Active Listening and a Calm Voice
The most successful businesses focus on customer service, but great service requires a calm, understanding demeanor. If you’re looking away, signing, or ignoring the customer while they’re venting, you could make them feel you don’t care. Even if you don’t, you should show you do.
For better or for worse, you’re the person the customer chose to displace their anger. When this happens, listen patiently so they feel heard. When they’re finished, summarize their points and ask questions. Make sure to keep eye contact, uncross your arms, and sit/stand up straight.
3. Sympathize and Apologize Gracefully
Although it can seem like the customer is angry for no reason or that their anger is misplaced on to you (and it usually is), there are a few reasons why a customer may get angry. 5 common reasons are poor service, rudeness, unmet expectations, no communication, and scam tactics.
Regardless of the reason, actively sympathize with their plight. If you can help rectify the situation, try to do so, or call a manager. Before you do this, apologize gracefully. Whether they had a legitimate complaint is irrelevant, as an apology is the best way to keep your customers.
4. Use the Customer’s Name (If It’s Known)
Using a person’s name can be powerful because it establishes a strong level of personalization. However, if you’re speaking to a customer in person, you may not know their name, and it can come off as inappropriate if you ask for it. Only use their name if you already know what it is.
While using a customer’s name can show you care, make sure you don’t use it too much. In sales, someone’s name may be used to keep a person’s interests but can come off as phony if they’re aware of this technique. Go back and forth between direct and indirect (i.e., you) speech.
5. Take Responsibility By Using “I” Statements
If the mistake was on the company’s end, it’s perfectly fine to say “we’re sorry,” but if the source of their anger is you, always use “I” statements. Customers want you to own up to your mistakes instead of placing the blame on someone else, even if other circumstances led to the mistake.
For example, you may have been slow because you’re short-staffed. Saying “it isn’t my fault” may be true, but it won’t help the situation. Saying, “I’m sorry we’re slow today, the store is short-staffed, and I’m doing my best,” explains what’s happening without blaming the customer.
6. Find a Good Solution to Their Problem
We touched on this briefly in the last section, but you don’t have to be a manager to fix the problem. For example, if you’re using social media for customer service, you may be able to send them a coupon, discount, physical goods, or some other form of payment, if allowed.
On the other hand, you could get to the root of the problem. If the customer is angry that you’re out of something, explain why that is. If you’re a chain business, check if a store nearby has the item. When all else fails, speak to your manager and ask them to order more of said item.
7. Separate Yourself From the Situation
While this isn’t a tip for how to solve an irate customer situation, separating yourself from the customer or the front-of-the-house after the fact can give you space to recharge. Even if you handled the interaction as professionally and satisfactorily as possible, you might feel shaken.
Letting that stress linger inside you isn’t healthy, so ask your supervisor or another coworker if you can take a short break. Consider going on a walk for 15 minutes, calling a friend that makes you laugh, or doing something you enjoy. Once you’re ready, you can engage with customers.
8. Share What You’ve Learned With the Team
Speaking to demanding customers never gets any easier, but if you had a successful experience, be sure to share it with the team. Most customer-related issues are exasperated due to poor customer service, not because of the product or service itself, so training can help.
At the same time, a happy team can better handle these negative interactions. If employees are already stressed before they come to work, they’ll have a hard time helping others. Employers should promote a healthy work-life balance to give service workers time to rest accordingly.
Being a customer service agent is harder than it looks. Angry customers can pose a risk to your mental health, making it challenging to handle the situation with a calm mindset. With enough time, experience, and help, just about anyone can navigate these situations effectively.
In the end, customer service staff must realize that the customer just wants to vent. Letting them do so will help you get to the bottom of what’s bothering them and how you can solve the issue.
About the Author
Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link-building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.