Communication
April 17, 2020

Successfully dealing with angry customers: 6 actionable tips

Pim de Vos
Pim de Vos

A well-trained customer service agent can sense potential trouble from afar. Short replies, very limited patience or a voice that seeps with frustration. These are important signals that are hard to miss for anybody.

No matter how amazing your product is, dealing with angry customers is something every business goes through. Whether the frustration is valid or not, it is a situation you should handle with care. These are the times you can prevent the company from losing a customer. If you play your cards right, you may even impress the customer with your excellent communication and problem-solving skills.

This is how you should go about it:

  • Keep your cool
  • Use your customer’s name whenever you can
  • Reflective listening is key
  • Smile while speaking
  • Show and tell

1. Keep your cool

We know, this is easier said than done. But the first tip is possibly the most vital one: stay calm at all times.

While dealing with angry customers, it is very difficult to block any emotions that may come with that. It is human instinct to feel and act defensively whenever that happens. You should realize, even before picking up the phone, to not take things personally. Every person on earth gets angry sometimes, so it’s important to understand this and keep your cool. Focus on what the customer is saying, more than on their tone, and try to figure out what it is they are trying to achieve and what you can do to help them.

Dealing with angry customers: stay cool.

However, this does not mean that you should accept every single thing your customer says. You should be aware of boundaries, especially when a customer becomes aggressive in their expression or the way they talk to you. At the same time, don’t be so cool that you lose all sense of sincerity. Coming off too calm can come off as being uninterested. The sweet spot is there where you find a healthy and effective balance between being calm and being sincere.

2. Reaction speed

One of the biggest turn-offs for customers is slow customer service. Whether it is having to endure long waiting times on the phone or a webchat that takes forever to respond. 

An easy way to tackle this is to use a shared team inbox. This combines all your communication channels, such as social media, webchat, email, and phone into one inbox. This way you and your colleagues will never forget to check on a specific channel and make sure every customer gets support with an acceptable timespan. 

Trengo’s shared inbox makes it possible to detect urgent messages as soon as possible. For instance: you can easily create processes where messages with certain words such as ‘failure’ or ‘frustrating’ get labeled as ‘urgent’ automatically. This makes it way easier to prioritize which customers to help first.

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3. Use your customer’s name whenever you can

Let’s move on with a practical but valuable tip for dealing with angry customers: use the customer’s name. This may seem like a small tweak at first, but you’ll quickly notice its positive impact. Let’s have a look at an example.

Without a name: “Would you mind looking up your order number, sir?”

With a name: “Would you mind looking up your order number, Frank?”

Dealing with angry customers: personalization

Let’s try another one.

Without a name: “I’m on it right away, sir.”

With a name: “Frank, I’m on it right away.”

Makes quite the difference, right? With very little effort, the conversation seems so much more personal now, simply by inserting the customer’s name. As if you have known the customer for years. This method makes it way harder for the customer to be difficult because you establish the feeling of having a connection. The customer feels taken seriously, which is exactly what you are looking for as a customer service agent. 

4. Reflective listening is key

When you are frustrated or angry, anybody simply telling you, “I understand,” doesn’t help much. It’s a broad statement that doesn’t actually prove any understanding and can come off the wrong way. Even if it is intended well. Let’s take a look at an example:

Frustrated customer: “I have waited all day for this package to arrive, but I still haven’t received anything. I had to cancel a nice day out with friends, especially for this package. I am very upset and would like to be compensated.”

Customer service agent: “I get what you are saying, but…”

Doesn’t look promising, right? That’s why experienced customer service professionals practice reflective listening.

Dealing with angry customers by practicing reflective listening

Reflective listening is a simple but effective communication strategy consisting of two important steps. First of all, you have to listen intently and understand what the customer’s issue is. Then you summarize the problem to the customer, to prove that you have understood the problem at hand.

How to practice reflective listening

Here is how you do it.

Frustrated customer: “I have waited all day for this package to arrive, but I still haven’t received anything. I had to cancel a nice day out with friends to wait for it because I need it as soon as possible. I am very upset and would like to be compensated.”

Customer service agent: “So if I understand correctly, you have been expecting a package to arrive today and it did not arrive yet. This is frustrating to you because the delivery was urgent for you. Is this correct?”

This way, you have made sure that the customer feels understood. Make sure to not make any promises at this point, especially if you are not sure that you will be able to deliver. The most important thing to do at this stage is establishing trust and understanding.

5. Smile while speaking

Another simple tip that can drastically improve your conversations with difficult customers: smile while you speak. At first, this may feel a little awkward, especially when you are not used to it. It may even come across as advice that you would shrug off easily since it can be tempting to look for more complex improvements.

But your smile does not only affect the way you look, but it also affects the way you sound. It noticeably conveys friendliness and makes it way easier to establish a connection with your customers.

6. Show and tell

At the end of the conversation, make sure you discuss actionable steps. This doesn’t mean that you should promise them anything that you might not be able to deliver. It may simply be making the effort to get more information on the customers’ concerns or establishing the exact time that you will follow up with them.

This is also a good moment to tell your customer that his case is a top priority for you and to thank them for bringing it to your attention. This gives them the sense that you care about their situation. A lot of customers, especially when dealing with big companies, have the feeling they are ‘just a number’, so always be aware of this.

So those were my tips for successfully dealing with angry customers. Want to read more about customer interactions? Try a recent blog I wrote about customer psychology.

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