Dealing with angry customers is a (sometimes daily) reality for those working in the retail and customer service industries. Whether it’s in person or over the phone, a customer reacting harshly can easily put a damper on anyone’s day. Worse still is if a situation should arise where this ultimately affects business and money is lost on account of the customer’s poor temperament. While most of us might like to retort in kind, it is important to remember a few things:
- If they are speaking with you, it is likely because at that moment they need you
- You are not the angry person, they are. You don’t have to live with that, they do.
- It’s very possible that you can help make their day just a tad better.
Being able to quickly diffuse, or in some cases avoid further engaging an upset customer is an essential skill that all customer service advocates should be familiar with. It mostly comes down to how you respond or don’t respond to their aggressive actions, and making sure that you deal with every situation with the utmost courtesy and efficiency.
Never Forget Who You Represent
While we would all love to never deal with another irate customer, they will happen, and it’s important to remember that you are representing the company you work for.
- Try adjusting your mindset to understand the customers’ complaint. You may not have been in exactly the same situation before, but chances are more likely than not that you’ve been in a similar one. Recall that moment and try to empathize.
- Attempt to remove your feelings from the situation entirely. It would be far too easy to take everything an angry customer says to heart. It is likely that they don’t really mean it all personally and are simply frustrated with the company for one reason or another
- Apologize: This is often the hardest one, especially if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong, but in the eyes of most customers, a little humility goes a long way. Remember, you’re apologizing for the company not for yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to go up the chain of command. The most dreaded words for customer service advocates is “is there a manager I can speak to?” Don’t shy away from this, if you’re in the right a good manager will have your back. Go ahead and let them speak with the customer.
More Great Things to Keep in Mind
There are a laundry list of tips used throughout the customer service industry to help deal with impolite customers; this infographic is a great breakdown of a few fundamentals. Whether you’re new to the customer service game or this is a refresher course, take a look at some of the best ways to deal with a nasty situation. A few extra tools may come in handy when the decibel level reaches offensive proportions. If you happen to be the angry customer, there’s something in there for you as well.
Defuse vs. diffuse
To defuse (something) is to make a threatening or dangerous situation safer. For example, you might defuse a violent argument by calming the people involved, or you might literally defuse a bomb by deactivating its fuse. Diffuse works as both a verb and an adjective. To diffuse something is to disperse it or spread it out.
Great Article Dave and very relevant to every business.
I’ve always found that by listening to what an angry customer wants and taking mental notes of issues mentioned, this not only defuses the situation, but can also help you understand the source of the issue.
Sometime the issue isn’t even related to the business (it may just be that they are having a bad day) and often when I’ve dealt with this situation, the client ends up apologizing for their outburst by the time they finish.