In order to prepare yourself and your team for the barrage of customer calls that will come with many heavy shopping seasons of the year (Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, post-holidays, and so much more).… with everything from customers inquiring about your return and exchange policies, to questions about how to install the new product that they received for Christmas. With so many calls it’s natural to expect that you will hear from a number of impatient, frustrated, or just flat-out angry customers.

What’s the best way to deal with angry customers? Are there sure-fire responses that will diffuse the situation? We all know that if your customer reps use scripts, they will sound robotic and, well, “scripted,” but when tough scenarios arise, it does help to have guided responses for your reps. Below are five helpful telephone etiquette tips to steer potentially negative conversations into more positive conversations, without sounding scripted.

Telephone etiquette tip #1: Avoid “I don’t know”

It’s common for customers to ask questions that the rep doesn’t have an answer for, but instead of saying “I don’t know,” guide your reps to frame the response positively. A great alternative response would be:

“That’s a great question. I’ll find out for you.”

Instead of frustrating the customer and presenting a dead-end situation, the rep instead turns the situation into an opportunity.

Train your reps to avoid “I don’t know” whenever possible; teach them to reframe the unknowns into a way to offer additional help.

Telephone etiquette tip #2: Be careful how you transfer customers

One of the most dreaded phrases for many customers is “Let me transfer you.” How many times have you been transferred, only to start over on an automatic system, or to have the call dropped? While you may not be able to avoid having to transfer customers to a different department, you can ease customers’ worries by how you explain the move.

Instead of saying: “Please hold while I transfer you,” instead try:

“Let’s get this problem solved for you as quickly as possible. Angela is our specialist in the tech department, and she’s going to help you out.”

By rephrasing how you state a transfer, you’ll ease a customer’s fears of getting dropped and focus on the positive – that you’re putting them on the line with someone who specializes in the topic.

Telephone etiquette tip #3: Make the best of a defective product

If a customer calls to complain about a defective product, assume that you are already dealing with a frustrated customer who doesn’t think very highly about your products. Make lemonade out of lemons, as they say, with the following telephone etiquette steps:

Be empathetic: The first step is to show empathy. Communicate that you understand the problem is frustrating and that the customer is upset.

Offer some sort of explanation: Next, let the customer know that there is a reason behind the defect – this isn’t making excuses – it’s emphasizing that not all of your products are defective, and that they should expect a high-quality replacement.

Remedy the problem: Finally, offer a remedy. Tell the customer you will ship out a replacement right away or offer a refund.

Damaged or defective products are inevitable, but losing an angry customer because of it is not. How you handle the situation can make all the difference.

Telephone etiquette tip #4: When you can’t bend the rules, offer a winning alternative

There are certain rules that you can’t break for a customer, but instead of leaving the customer frustrated and disappointed, offer an alternative so that the customer still feels like he is still getting what he wants. For example, if a customer is trying to get a discount on a sale that has already expired, instead of telling the customer:

“I’m sorry, the sale is over, and we are no longer offering that discount.”

Try this:

“Gosh, really unfortunate timing. The sale ends on January 3rd, but if you don’t mind waiting until March, we’ll be offering our anniversary sale, and you can get the item for 20% off. Would you be willing to wait until then?”

In this scenario, you’re not breaking rules for your company, and you’re not telling the customer an outright no, either – you’re offering an alternative situation that still gives the customer the option he’s after.

Telephone etiquette tip #5: Don’t let the customer hang up until you know he or she is satisfied

Finally, how you close the call is extremely important. Before you let the customer hang up, take the small step of asking if there is anything else that you can assist with. Here is a fantastic way to wrap up a call:

“Thanks again for taking the time to call today. Is there anything else I can help with? I’d be happy to assist with anything else you need.”

A closing line such as this shows your appreciation for the customer, makes sure the customer is satisfied, and it communicates your willingness to keep helping, if need be. This type of closer is especially effective if you’ve had an angry customer – it ends the conversation on a positive note.