“The customer is always right” is a mantra of sales departments, but when it comes to the helpdesk, angry callers can make you wonder if the proverb is really true. Although nobody likes dealing with irate clients, customer complaints can turn into useful feedback, continued patronage, and positive experiences for everyone—as long as they are handled correctly. So how can you handle your angriest customers with class?

Understand the Caller
One of the first steps is to identify what type of customer you are talking to. Some customers have legitimate complaints, but are adverse to talking to you because they aren’t sure that you’ll care. Others are outspoken, unhappy, and ready to give you a piece of their mind. Some are chronic complainers, who are difficult to please but respond enthusiastically when you do, while others are simply looking for a free handout. Determining what type of customer you’re facing will help determine your strategy—should you press the issue to find out what the real problem is? Offer incentives? Politely stick to your guns? Or simply take a deep breath and listen?

Simple Steps
Keeping the characteristics of your customer in mind, you should start by taking control of the situation, indicating to the customer that you are ready to handle their problem. Next acknowledge that you understand their concerns, and change the focus from their emotions to the solution at hand. Outlining how you’ll take care of it helps to reassure them that there is a solution, and you’re taking the problem seriously. Then help solve the problem.

Although it’s easy to outline the process of handling angry customers in general terms, in practice defusing problems can be difficult. Here are some tips for calming customers down and avoiding confrontation in the first place:

Pay Attention
First of all, treat them genuinely and with respect. This is not official correspondence, so leave out stiff corporate phrasing. Don’t be a slave to the script or mentally check out of the conversation. If customers feel like they’re not being listened to, they will only become more upset.

Be Respectful
When customers are upset, it can be tempting to respond with passive aggression. Don’t tell a customer “I’m sorry that you’re having this problem”, because that isn’t really an apology and subtly shifts the blame to them. This is not a good way to defuse tension. Instead, just apologize, take responsibility, and promise to fix it.

Don’t Be Too Bubbly
On the flip side, don’t be overly cheerful. Your customers can detect insincerity a mile off, and someone who is aggressively happy can be downright obnoxious. Treat your customers like regular people, being as genuine as possible while still remaining respectful and professional.

Stay Efficient
Finally, one of the best ways to help prevent a customer from becoming upset while using your helpdesk is to have efficient and effective customer service. In most cases, an angry customer can be persuaded to stay with you as long as you resolve their problem quickly and efficiently. Try to find solutions to decrease wait time, ease transfers, and ensure follow-through—a convenient customer service experience helps you to retain customers and streamline your operations. Cloud help desk technology is one great choice.

Good customer support isn’t about being right, it’s about making things right.