Working as a customer service representative will give you the opportunity to meet different types of customers, and this is even more common for call center agents. Since the purpose of call centers is to deliver a great customer experience, always, knowing how to handle callers with different attitudes and demands plays a vital role in protecting the company’s reputation and position in the customer service industry. Thus, dealing with angry customers is a part of a call center agent’s everyday job.
We all have our mood changes, good days, and bad days. But if you want to secure an impressive rating as an agent, you should know how to stay calm, even when talking to irate customers. Handling angry callers is a tough task, but with the right amount of patience, understanding, confidence, and professionalism, every call could be an opportunity for you to improve your skills as a call center representative.
Here are 10 ways how to handle an angry customer in a call center and increase customer satisfaction, at the same time.
1. Hear Them Out
Let us start with the basic: Listening. Most of the time, angry calls tend to worsen when customers feel that they are not given enough time to speak about their complaints and because of their frustration and disappointment. To deal with angry calls, the first thing that you should do is to hear them out. Angry customers need your undivided attention and there is no better way to meet this need than to let them finish speaking before you go ahead with providing the solution to their problems.
One of the best call center practices that the best agents do is enabling video calls and chats when dealing with difficult customers. Compared to phone calls, you can show a more personal connection between you and the displeased customers, and they can actually see and feel that you are listening to them and that you have the sincerest intention to help them.
While listening to the complaint of a dissatisfied customer, make sure that your posture is proper and your eye contact is consistent. You may also want to take some notes while listening to show that you are genuinely determined to help him or her.
2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Figuratively speaking, this is one of the most powerful ways to appease upset customers. Putting yourself in their shoes is basically empathy. When you empathize with someone, you have to make them feel that their feedback is acknowledged and that you understand how he or she feels. The same goes for handling angry customer calls. Think about how you would feel after receiving a bad product or service, and help the customer have a better experience, something that you would also love to have if you are in his or her shoes.
3. Verify the Information Provided
Notice how service staff of fast food restaurants and even grocery cashiers always repeat your orders and the amount of cash that you gave to pay for your items? There is a logical explanation for that practice. According to ChangingMinds.org, repeating orders is very important to make the customer feel at ease that you have fully heard and understood all his or her orders and special instructions. While the nature is a bit different in call centers, such practice is applicable when you handle customer calls.
Experienced customer service agents repeat the information relayed to them by angry clients to make sure that they have noted the complaint, the root of the problem, and the customer’s expectations. Due to overwhelming emotions, customers sometimes forget other important information that you might need to help them. Make sure to repeat and verify information once they are done speaking. Never, ever, cut disgruntled customers when they speak as this could irritate them more.
If you think that the customer is done voicing out his or her complaint, make a subtle and polite follow-up by asking “Would you like to continue, Ma’am/Sir?”. Once they confirm that all information is correct, go to the next step.
4. Transfer to Proper Channel, If Needed
Some customer complaints can be settled in a single platform or channel, but when things get more serious and emotions escalate, it might be necessary to transfer the conversation to another channel that is fitter for the situation. Customers believe that they have the right to demand better service and excellent solutions to their problems and to make your customer feel valued, plan a conflict resolution strategy that is more than giving an answer to the question they ask. When customers seem to be very upset, they could actually go into thinking that you are not actually doing anything to handle the situation.
The best solution to this is enabling a video call where you can actually share a screen with them and show the steps that you are taking to resolve the situation. Take note that if you opt to transfer the conversation, you have to make sure that the customer can conveniently access the next medium. Companies that offer excellent customer service and support rely on the benefits of omnichannel strategies to decrease handling times, efficiently manage inquiries and complaints, and deal with angry and difficult customers without neglecting other important tasks. Do the channel transfer as smoothly and as courteously as possible. “Would it be fine if we continue this conversation through email?”, then guide them during the transfer.
5. Use a Professional Tone and Language
There are many types of complaints matched with different types of angry customers. In fact, not all difficult customers are angry and aggressive. Some of them are just indecisive and demanding. In dealing with an angry caller, it is impossible not to meet any of these, and sometimes, all these. So you have to make sure that you are still using a professional tone and language when talking to them.
Remember that “the customer is always right”, even if he or she falls into any of these types:
- The Demanding/Bully/Aggressive one.
- The Habitual Complainer.
- The Confused/Indecisive customer.
- The Impatient Customer.
- The Know-it-all one.
Their actuation may be different, but all are difficult customers. Interactions with them may actually involve a lot of swearing, passive-aggressive behavior, loud voice, and tons of complaints (yes, even for the smallest things). But a great customer service representative knows that fighting fire with fire will not make any sense. To handle these interactions, make sure that you use a well-modulated voice and never forget to discuss them politely, still.
The tone of voice of a good call center staff is always calm, empathic, and professional. For the language, avoid using terms that they are not familiar with. One customer may be knowledgeable of the technical terminologies, but others are not. Nobody wants to receive a cold or equally aggressive response to a complaint, right? Always go back to number two.
6. Inform Customers About the Next Steps (and make sure to follow them)
If you are handling a call with an extremely irritated customer, the worst thing that you could do is leave them hanging. Every call center trains staff in conflict management and negotiation and while asking customers to wait a little longer might not sound like a good idea, sometimes the customer does not mind waiting as long as the next steps are clear.
When you tell them about the next steps, you are actually setting their expectations, so be mindful of giving the next steps and the corresponding time frame for each step to let the customer know that resolving the issue involves different departments and persons in charge, but you are doing your best. Always ask for more patience and understanding. Saying the truth is better than making them wait for nothing.
7. Know the Needs of Customers
Dealing with a habitual complainer can be very exhausting, but there is a way to handle an angry or difficult customer like this. To better handle complaints, review the transaction and interaction history of the said customer to know the common root of his or her dissatisfaction, how the earlier agents resolve the issue, and if it is possible to completely avoid the situation in the future.
Aside from reviewing call history, call center managers do live monitoring and call recording to check the quality of calls that the agents make every day. Once you listen to an angry call, remember all the necessary information that you can use to put up with angry customers. Customers will appreciate an agent who knows their needs as well as the right way to talk to them.
Be careful in recording calls, since there are country laws that prohibit it due to possible information leakage and security issues.
8. Ask for Help
Newbies in the call center industry are expected to be unfamiliar with conflict management strategies to handle difficult customers, but sometimes, even the most experienced call center agents struggle with rude customers. A survey found that almost 70% of Americans admitted that they have been rude to or yelled at a customer service agent.
When dealing with abusive customers is starting to affect the quality of your calls to other customers, it is completely fine to ask for help from others. You may ask for your team leader or supervisor to help you de-escalate the situation.
Customer loyalty and customer retention are both very important for a customer service agent, but if making the customer happy means affecting your performance, it is best to seek help.
9. Offer Solutions
Here’s the truth: you can’t appease unhappy customers by telling them that you will see what you can do to help. Calls in a call center company usually consist of product or service complaints or requests and customers will always demand for real solutions. Offer solutions even if that particular solution is hard to implement. Does this mean that you have to lie to avoid bad customer service reviews? No. But you need to give them an assurance that you are doing your best.
Would you like for us to issue a refund? There are situations where refunds are not approved, but letting the customer know that you are coordinating with your manager to process a possible refund would actually calm them down. If a refund is not possible, offer other options such as vouchers or discount coupons that work under the company’s terms and conditions.
10. Take the Complaint Seriously, Not Personally
Being a call center agent is a tough job and sometimes, the unpleasant experiences of agents are slowly affecting their work performance as well as their personal lives. Regularly dealing with rude and abusive customers is one of the causes of high attrition rates in call centers, and it is pretty understandable. The job is financially fulfilling but can be mentally exhausting too.
It is important to remember not to take the words of rude customers personally. Dealing with their complaints seriously is a task required for your work as a call center agent, but the demeaning words should not affect you personally as an individual. While working as a call center agent, take your much-needed break to recharge and bounce back stronger. Never underestimate the benefits of work-life balance.
Now that we have already shared with you the most effective and proven ways to handle upset customers in a call center, it would be easier for you to do your task excellently while protecting yourself and the company’s integrity and reputation. Remember that difficult customers are part of your professional growth in the call center industry, and every call is an opportunity for you to show your abilities.
Speaking of angry customers, we believe that it is also necessary for call center agents to find the causes of these customers’ complaints which are usually followed by aggressive and rude behavior, making the call more difficult and exhausting. Here are the usual causes of their complaints:
What Makes a Caller Angry? Most Common Causes of Angry Customer Calls
Your Product has a Problem
When we buy products from online and physical shops, we always want to make sure that the product is worth our money and our trust. Customers who call to complain about a product’s problem (defects, missing parts or inclusions, and inconsistency in quality), are just like us.
Put yourself in their shoes and ask how would you feel if you paid a good amount of money for a product only to receive it with defects and in poor quality? You will be disappointed, for sure.
Customers (or people, in general) hate waiting but since they are aware that they are not the only customers requesting support, a little waiting time won’t hurt. But the most common complaint customers have against a company or an agent is when agents give them a fixed response time, only to be transferred from one agent to another. When customers ask for support via the call center, they expect an easy and convenient process.
To make things worse, some agents tend to leave customers hanging without providing a solution to an issue. This is where a customer starts getting upset, so make sure not to leave any unresolved case with a customer before jumping to another call.
Lack of Knowledge
Another reason why customers get angry is the lack of knowledge of some agents. Nobody’s perfect, that is for sure. But if you are a call center agent who works for telesales, being knowledgeable about the product’s details and benefits is a huge advantage. Customers feel they are wasting their time when they talk to agents who are unsure about what they are saying.
Moreover, customers could actually sense when an agent is nervous or uncertain when answering a question. Irate customers, sometimes, are customers who are not satisfied with your answers to their inquiries. So always stay updated with new information about product releases, bestsellers, and promo bundles to serve them better.
Negative language is not exclusive to swearing or cursing. If you are still in the call center agent training phase, your trainer should emphasize the result of language in dealing with angry customers. An angry customer wants concrete solutions to his or her problem, so talking using negative language could actually worsen his or her mood.
For example, you are continuously marketing the best-selling product with the highest customer ratings and recommendations, but a customer called to complain about the product’s quality and effectiveness. If you know the HEAT model, you should know that singling him or her out as the “only customer who complained about this product” is a terrible idea.
No matter how seemingly petty or unreasonable the customers’ complaints are, never put the blame on them. Instead, listen to them, tell them that you understand how they feel, apologize, and take the necessary action.
Unfortunately, some difficult customers are angry for reasons that are beyond product and service or support issues. It is very common for angry customers who are struggling with personal problems to lash out and become aggressive to agents when they are already carrying a burden that they could not share with anyone.
The “small” problems such as product flaws and slow response from agents serve as “triggers” to the existing issues that they have. Some customers who yell at agents have trouble with health, family, and finances.
An excellent customer service representative can listen to them and understand how they feel. In a way, you can actually develop a more mature aspect of your job as CSR, and at the same time, build valuable and meaningful relationships with customers.
Difficult Customers Can Help You Build Your Skills
Working as a call center agent or a customer service representative allows you to interact with different types of people who can help you enhance your skills. In dealing with difficult customers, keep in mind that dedication, professionalism, and commitment will go a long way. After all, customers are just like us, who will always want to settle for the best.
In Digital Minds BPO, all agents are properly trained with the golden rules of customer service to give every customer a superb experience through quality calls and excellent negotiation strategies. Business owners no longer have to worry about handling irate customers and their relationship with their clients will be as productive and valuable as ever.
Do you have experience with difficult callers? What did you do to handle angry customers? Share it with us!
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