The Right Words to Say to an Angry Customer

The interesting caller will have no legitimate grievance against your enterprise. Rather, he or she will have suffered a recent personal strain and, without anybody else to vent to, will turn to taking their grievance out on your staff. This frequently involves amplifying the most minor of complaints right out of proportion.

How to take care of Angry Customer

This type of caller is among the most frustrating for a contact center agent; he or she will likely have encountered legitimately furious customers in the past and may feel that to “mollycoddle” their Offloader is a waste of time and energy. Even so, the caller should be taken as seriously as possible, and formally empathetic language should be used at all times.

The following is a list of phrases best suited to this type of customer; note that the words of particular importance have been highlighted – for best results, these should be repeated at various points throughout the conversation.

  • “I’m so sorry that you feel this way, Mr… …”
  • “As a solution,”
  •  “May I suggest that…?”
  • “What I’ll do right now is…”
  • “We really do appreciate this feedback, Mr……”
  • “May I arrange for an update call, at a time most convenient for you?”
  • “We really do appreciate this feedback, Mr……”
  • “I’m so sorry to hear about this, Mr….…”

The Abusive Customer

Ah, the Abusive Customer: a fascinating specimen, easily identifiable through its signature high pitch and generous use of profanity.

Paradoxical as it sounds, many agents look forward to receiving calls from this sort of customer. The reason? Well, since corporations’ duty of care towards their employees includes protection from client abuse, the rare emergence of the Vulgarian appears to present a good opportunity to terminate the call.

Though no employee should be expected to put up with personal insults, it is industry standard for agents to warn abusive customers at least three times before ending the conversation. Still, there are a series of phrases that can help to restore calm.

Of course, even more important than the language used is the ability of the agent to hold his or her cool under pressure; needless to say, there can be no excuse for insulting a customer – such an act would constitute gross misconduct, even if done in retaliation. So, along with encouraging professional lingo, school your staff in the emotional side of dealing with abusive callers.

  • “I truly understand your concern, Sir/Madam, but unfortunately we cannot tolerate the kind of language you are using right now…”
  • “I’m going to do my very best to help you, Mr..…”
  • “You seem very upset, Mr …… Would you prefer to continue this conversation through email or post?”
  •  “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Sir/Madam. Would you like for us to call you back when you feel a little calmer?”
  • “I apologies, Mr…., but if you continue to use this language, I will be forced to end this call.”
  • “For the quickest resolution, I would request you to…”

Easily confused with The Abusive Customer, the Threat-Maker is, in fact, a different kettle of chips altogether. Whilst the former’s intention is to insult the call handler into cessation, the latter seeks to obtain appeasement through emotional or even physical intimidation.

Of course, most agents have dealt with enough Threat-Makers to know that, despite their dogged self-conviction, the vast majority of threats levied are as empty as a church on Monday morning. Even so, many telephone staff find this complainant’s tactics the most provocative of any irate caller. As such, it’s important again to remind staff not to react to intimidation; to do so would just give the caller further ammunition, and add weight to a grievance that was, perhaps, spurious.

Sticking to one’s guns is the key to success over the Threat-Maker; offering inappropriate compensation will serve only to encourage future complaints. Moreover, it’s important to remember that, regardless of how unpleasant he or she might be as a person, each and every one of your customers is an essential source of revenue for your business. Agents should strive for a golden mean between level-headed formality and empathy for the customer’s condition.

  • “I do understand the inconvenience you’ve faced, Sir/Madam…”
  • “Let me see how I can fix this, Mr….…”
  • “I recommend that you (insert action here), Sir/Madam, so that I can take further action without delay.”
  • “I am more than happy to help you, Mr……”
  • “For the quickest resolution, I would request you to…”

Which specific words should you use?

So, we now know what phrases to use when dealing with the different types of angry customers in the call centre.  But what specific words are central to all of these expressions? Find out below, and if you remember these words, the right statements to use should start to fall off the tip of your tongue.  You can also build them into your call centre spiels.

“I”

There are occasions when you can use “we”, like when taking feedback and noting that the company will take it on board, but for the most part, you should always use personal pronouns, especially “I”.

This is so the customer understands that you are a real person and are invested in them individually. The caller will feel less stranded if you take personal ownership of their problem and taking away this isolation will help to remove frustration.

“Yes”

Customers want to hear what you can do to solve their problem, so it is important to avoid negatives such as “no” and replace them with positive words like “yes”.

A good technique to help to achieve this would be to listen to the customer’s rant and say “Yes, …” and then repeat what they have said back to them. This helps to confirm to the customer that what they have said was understood, whilst you have added a positive spin to the conversation.

“Definitely”

Why? Because they are affirmatives that take away uncertainty from a conversation, as this kind of language will remove doubt.

“Feedback”

In many cases, an irritated person does not like to be told or it to be insinuated that they are angry, so try to remain positive.

So, when the customer has come to the end of their rant, refer to what they have said as feedback and perhaps mention that you will pass it on to the managerial team.

“Understanding”

This is an example of the progressive form of a verb, and others such as “resolving” and “asking” are particularly good when handling an irate customer, as they show that you are actively working to fix an issue.

This removes the insinuations of future-tense forms, like “I’ll resolve” and “I’ll ask”, which don’t suggest the immediacy that the customer will undoubtedly crave.

“Currently”

Using this word has a similar purpose to using the progressive forms of verbs, as you are informing the customer of your immediate actions, so that they feel as though they are in the loop.

It could then be useful to follow this up by informing the customer of your action plan for resolving their query and, if needs be, specify a realistic timeframe in which you will deliver a solution.

“Recommendation / Suggestion”

To avoid telling a customer what they should or could have done, make sure you make recommendations or suggestions to offer advice, in order to avoid patronising them.

You run the risk of angering customers further if you offer them advice in a condescending tone, especially if the problem is on a computer or a technical gadget.

Reader suggestions

Here are some additional suggestions sent in by our readers. These involve suggestions of words and phrases to use, as well as other general advice to consider when dealing with an irate customer.

Add empathy

In some instances, it is important to show empathy with what the customer is saying, even agreement – “if that happened to me, I would also be annoyed”. But what we need to concentrate on is stating that we are acknowledging that we understand the customer.

Nobody argues if someone agrees with them.

Do we always need to apologise? No!

Why put ourselves on the back foot all of the time?

 

Customers believe that they expect an apology. Again… very few customers in my experience call up for an apology… they call up to have the issue resolved.
Apologies often result in the advisor feeling as if the customer has the upper hand.
Let’s stop this parent / child customer / advisor relationship.

Let the irate customer vent

The customer may not be right, but the customer is always the customer. Remember the person on the end of the phone is not shouting at you. Don’t take it personally!

They are shouting at the business you work for. So, sit back, relax and let the customer rant and rave. If you consider that they are shouting at you all the time, then you shouldn’t be in the call centre business. So, remember always stay calm and you’ll shine.

Stick to this four-point plan!

  1. Make notes – First listen to the customer very carefully and patiently. Make a note of every detail, as you can make your customer increasingly irate if you make them repeat and convey that you don’t care.
  2. Don’t interrupt – Never, never interrupt the customer while they are explaining the issue. Let them pour out their aggression, and get them ready to listen and understand what you are saying. Always take a pause before you start. It’ll help you avoid interruption.
  3. Watch your tone – What you say is important; however, how you say it is even more important. So please make sure you pay attention to it. Saying anything or everything in a flat tone will make situation even worse.
  4. Smile – Last but not the least, keep smiling. It’ll help you not to lose your patience and keep calm, but it will also help you resolve the issue more effectively.

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