We’ve all been there. We are interacting with a customer and everything seems smooth, then BAM! Your customer becomes angry and it hits you like a freight train.
Your next thought might be, “How did it come to this?” It might be “What did I do wrong?” or “What do I do next?”
There are methods that can help you to effectively handle difficult customers, reduce their anger and engage in conflict resolution. Below is information borrowed from the field of psychology, a profession that specializes in interacting with difficult individuals, reducing their distress and repairing the relationship. They are 15 customer service techniques that you can employ to help achieve customer service conflict resolution excellence!
Chances are, your customer’s anger did not come out of nowhere. Look for signs that your customer’s emotional state is deteriorating: a clenched jaw, tense posture, clenched fists, fidgeting, significant changes in behavior (e.g. a talkative person who becomes quiet) or a more harsh tone of voice.
When the customer has reached the point of anger, allow them the space to voice their frustrations. Spend the time that is needed, do not interrupt and occasionally show support with statements such as, “I understand,” “I agree, this can be frustrating,” etc. Simply put, that’s good customer service.
By giving your customer the space to speak, you are putting the ball in their court and communicating to them that their situation deserves attention. Do not try to overpower the customer by cutting them off, telling them they are wrong or ending the conversation.
Are they irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious or angry? Accurately identifying their mood state will help you understand the causes for their mood (let’s call it anger and adjust our customer service).
Try to figure out exactly why they are angry. This may take some work on your end as sometimes the thing they are yelling about might not actually be what they are angry about. Ask yourself the following questions
When the customer has finished venting, respond calmly and treat the individual with respect. Empathize with the individual with statements such as, “ I understand how upsetting this must be for you.”
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Do not let yourself be manipulated by the customer’s anger. Always remain calm and professional. Speak softly and address the customer by name.
Trying to speak rationally to someone who is angry is not effective and will make matters worse.
Try to paraphrase back what the customer has told you. Keep your statements short and simple. Avoid company jargon or referring to company policy.
If the complaint is valid, acknowledge that.
Use phrases like, “Can you tell me what you need?”
Start by addressing the issues that are easiest for you to solve. If the customer can see an immediate change, they will understand that you are helping them fix their problem.
Provide information about why something is not possible, but always have a solution that might help meet their needs. If your company cannot meet their needs, refer them to one that can.
Explain your viewpoint carefully and negotiate the differences.
Compliment the individual. Tell a joke. Offer a refund or voucher. Do whatever it takes to make sure the customer is happy at the end of the conversation.
These techniques have been utilized by psychotherapists, salespeople, call center agents, managers and CEOs. The key to calming a customer, arriving at an effective solution and winning back their trust is being prepared to deal with a difficult customer. Practice these steps before the situation arises so you will be fully-prepared to handle anything that comes your way.