Angry customers are expected now and then in customer service, but some go way beyond being upset to becoming abusive. Over the phone, it can start from the moment your team picks up the call although it has nothing to do with any failings of your own. People that are already out of control tend to be even worse if they don’t have to face the victim. If you let it get out of hand, it can ruin your day or even make your staff dread going to work. It’s important to remind staff to stay calm. Educate them on these five strategies for dealing with abusive customers.
1. Get personal
Establishing a personal connection can be a way to reduce anger as it forces the customer to see you as individuals. Agents should start by asking their name and the name of their company if applicable. Try to get all the details, and remind them that you can’t help without the right information. Take deep breaths and speak softly and slowly during the stressful encounter. Use their name as often as you can while you try to discover the problem. Take every opportunity to remind them of your own name. Empathize with their feelings and assure them you want to help.
2. Calm and silence
Sometimes it helps to let the person vent their negative energy. Don’t talk over them or try to argue until they’re done making a point. Let them know you’re listening, but don’t engage the abusive customer until the ranting and raving runs its course. When they burn off this energy, or stop to allow you a response, wait a few seconds and restate your position. If the customer interrupts, remind them that you’ve heard their story and would like a chance to give yours. If they won’t accept the conditions you’re trying to relate, tell them they should file a complaint.
3. Keep them informed but set boundaries
Especially in a call center where the customer may feel remote, assure them repeatedly that you’re working on their problem. If you need a few moments of silence waiting on computer files, let them know what’s happening. At any point where the customer’s language becomes abusive, let them know they’re getting out of line. They may not even realize it. If the abuse continues, remind the customer that they’re only making it more difficult for you to help.
4. Get help
You may have heard the phrase “the customer is always right,” but this actually isn’t true; if the customer isn’t willing to listen or is being abusive, it’s best to tell the customer you’ve done all you can and don’t deserve to be abused. Agents should be able to get help from a superior. Some customers will automatically show more respect and lighten their tone once they’re connected to you or another senior employee. Having been rebuffed by an agent for their behavior, they are also more likely to reconsider their poor attitude and make an effort to be more reasonable.
5. End the conversation
If there’s nobody available to transfer to, or you’re the one handling the transfer and the abuse continues, it’s time to think about terminating the interaction. According to Call Center Solutions, in this case you should simply say you’ve had enough and are hanging up. Unhappy customers are likely to spend less anyway, not to mention decrease employee morale and make poor customer service in the future more likely.
There’s no reason to feel anxious if it’s the customer that’s being unreasonable. After each stressful call, let employees take a few moments to relax and reset.