Contact Center Trends

6 Steps to Dealing with a Difficult Caller in the Call Center

By Shauna Geraghty

0 min read

difficult caller

Diffusing the Situation with Angry Callers is Key for Customer Experience

Dealing with an angry caller is never an easy task. Unfortunately, call center customer service representatives have to do it all the time. While the stress and anxiety of handling these situations fade as reps learn the ropes, the importance of handling difficult customers well never fades.

A dissatisfied customer is likely to tell between nine and 15 people about their experience, whereas a satisfied customer may only tell between four and six. That means that, unfortunately, when it comes to customer support, bad news travels faster than good. Thus, ensuring that each caller hangs up happy is of utmost importance. Here are some simple steps to make the process of turning a tough caller into a satisfied customer:

1.  Work as quickly as possible

As they say, time is money. The more efficient you can be means the more customers you can help throughout the day. Most, in fact 90 percent, of consumers would rather deal with issues over the phone than via chat, email or social media.

That usually means that on any given day, you could have a lot of customers on hold. You need to get to all of them as fast as you can. Not only that, but customers get frustrated when they have to wait. Many are already frustrated by the time they arrive at the other end of your line. Adding excessive hold times to the process will only exasperate the initial problem.

Even for those who are calling to place an order, it’s just as important to help them place it as quickly as they can. If an online shopper doesn’t feel their concern or question is addressed in a fast enough manner, 45 percent of the time, they’ll abandon the purchase altogether, losing the company cash and a potential loyal customer.

Call center managers can help their agents become more efficient by providing them with intuitive and easy-to-use cloud-based call center software that frees up time with automated workflows and helps them improve on their KPIs.

2.  Listen to the entire story first

When you do get a difficult caller on the phone, ask the customer how you can help them. Then, sit back and listen, really listen. When a customer is explaining a problem, don’t interrupt them at all. Don’t cut them off. Don’t even cut in to ask for clarification. As they talk, have a pen and paper or computer tab handy. This way, you can jot down any details and potential questions you’d like to ask for clarification reasons after they’re finished.

Not only will listening to the whole story first give you a better idea of the issue or question they’re calling about, but it will also help the customer feel better. There are few things more frustrating to an angry caller than not being heard. Let them talk while you actively listen and take notes.

3.  Apologize

After they’ve explained the problem, before anything else happens, apologize. This is key, especially if the customer is angry. Even if he or she is as cool as a clam, it is still worth your time to apologize for any problem or inconvenience. If the problem was originally their fault, blaming them is only going to worsen their mood, so give a sincere apology, not a generic one. That way, they’ll feel like they have an ally, not an enemy. Assure him or her that you’re going to assist them and together you will work to solve the issue at hand.

4.  Make sure you understand

Now that you’ve apologized, it’s time to look again at those notes you were taking. Knowing and understanding the details before you begin to try to solve the issue will almost always actually save time down the road. Plus, it will let the caller know that you hear them, are actively thinking about their problem and are doing what you can to assist them.

5.  Try to solve the issue

If you know the solution, fantastic! Dive right in. If you’re unsure, don’t make any promises that you can’t keep. “I’d love to help you with this issue” isn’t quite the same as saying, “I’ll send you a new one by tomorrow” if it can’t be done.

If you don’t know the answer, put the caller on hold and consult your manual or other resources as quickly as possible. Remember, an angry caller is only going to get more annoyed the longer he or she sits on hold. If you can’t resolve the issue quickly, you’ll need to ask a coworker or manager for help.

If you actually need to transfer the caller to another department or manager, let them know first rather than just pushing a button and sending them along. Many annoyed customers are hesitant to be transferred because they fear their call will be dropped, they’ll be placed on hold again or they may be annoyed that they have to explain their issue again.

One way some companies handle this is by having the first customer service rep actively call and then introduce the customer to the second service rep. This warm transfer gives the worker a chance to efficiently explain the problem and it doesn’t leave the angry caller hanging.

6.  Compensate the customer for their trouble

If you have a particularly difficult caller on the phone, you may have to give them particularly special treatment. Not all companies are able to offer discounts or freebies to disgruntled customers, but many do. If you have a problematic customer who refuses to relax, you may have to throw them a freebie as a last resort.

This is sure to calm them down because everyone loves free stuff. Even though it may seem like a loss of money upfront, paying to keep a customer loyal will likely pay for itself in the long run by cutting back on marketing costs. A new customer costs six or seven times more to market to than a returning one. Plus, it’ll save on the bottom line. Increasing customer retention by just two percent decreases overall costs by an average of 10 percent.

Above all, staying friendly, keeping your cool and moving things along as efficiently as possible are the three main components of satisfying even the grumpiest of customers. Stay sympathetic and positive and always apologize for their inconvenience. Take a deep breath and, most importantly of all, be as helpful as possible but never take an angry caller personally. The majority of the time, it’s not you. It’s them.

Discover Talkdesk's enterprise-class cloud security


Shauna Geraghty

As the first U.S. employee, Shauna helped to scale Talkdesk to over 1,000 employees in 7 offices globally. During her tenure, she has built Talkdesk's Marketing, Talent and HR functions from the ground up. Shauna has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has applied foundational knowledge from the field of psychology to help propel Talkdesk along its hyper-growth trajectory.