Top 5 Ways to Deal with Upset CustomersWorking in call centers and the field of customer service means that inevitably, you and your team will deal with upset customers. The upset-customer spectrum may range from slightly frustrated to irate and yelling – but the end result will be the same if you don’t handle it properly: You could permanently lose the customer’s business, and quite likely, that customer will tell his or her friends about the bad experience. The story may also be spread through social media channels, as the customer uses his or her empowered voice to ensure that no one else has to deal with your company.

No one enjoys dealing with upset customers, but also keep in mind that people don’t buy a product or use a service with hopes that they can call customer service to complain; the customer is not simply calling you to ruin your day. How you handle the customer’s complaint will either escalate or diffuse the situation, which will make your life much harder or much easier – and determine whether or not you have lost a customer or retained his or her business. So how should you deal with upset customers to ensure the best possible outcome? We’ve compiled five essential tips to help you out.

Dealing with upset customers tip #1: Listen and be patient

The moment you encounter an upset customer, your very first step is to listen carefully and be patient as your customer vents and or/explains the problem. It’s natural for your “hackles” to go up when a customer is yelling or starts with personal attacks, but remember that behind the emotion is a genuine problem, so carefully listen and be patient while the customer vents. If you start off defensive, it will only escalate the customer’s anger, and it will be harder to sort through the issue and get a sense for what the real problem is. Remember not to take the attacks personally, even if the customer is making personal accusations toward you – the customer is looking for acknowledgement that he or she is angry, so recognize that there is a problem and that he or she has a right to be upset. Chances are, your patient approach will help diffuse the anger. Once the customer is calmer, you can start working on addressing the problem constructively.

Dealing with upset customers tip #2: Use reflective listening to confirm that you understand the problem

Once the customer has started to calm down, it’s now time to start figuring out how to address the problem and start putting your soft skills to work. Avoid phrases such as “that’s our policy,” or “you’ll have to go to our website” – the customer did not call you to be shut down or re-directed – the customer called to speak to a live person who will help solve the problem. By reiterating the issue, you’re communicating to the customer that you clearly understand what is going on and affirming to the customer that you are listening.

Dealing with upset customers tip #3: Take personal responsibility to help solve the problem

Instead of distancing yourself from the customer’s problem by telling the customer that another department will help the customer, or that you’ll need to have a supervisor assist with the problem, let the customer know upfront that you, personally, will take responsibility to ensure that the issue is solved, and that you will work with the customer to make sure he or she ends up satisfied. By stating your responsibility, instead of simply passing the customer off (even if you will need to coordinate with another department or a supervisor to solve the problem), you’re communicating that you’re on the customer’s side; you’re an ally. This personal approach will reinforce to the customer that he or she is being listened to and that the problem is being addressed. In a customer service world where customers are used to navigating through automated phone systems and dealing with scripted call center reps, this personal acknowledgement will stand out.

Dealing with upset customers tip #4: Take a collaborative attitude

Instead of dictating to the customer your company’s policy or telling the customer what will happen, re-phrase the process by saying something such as “What would you consider a fair solution?” When you do this, you allow the customer to be a part of the solution and help set the starting point for a negotiation, as well as set a level of expectation for the outcome. Even if the customer suggests something that is beyond what your company can offer, it gives you a starting point to work down from so that the customer is compensated for time lost on a service or a broken product.

Dealing with upset customers tip #5: Don’t forget to follow-up

Once you have ended the call, your job is not over; if you have dealt with an upset customer, follow-up after a few weeks to make sure that the problem was sufficiently solved and that the customer was pleased with the result. By checking back in, you are demonstrating that your company really does care that the customer is pleased, and you are letting the customer know that his or her business really matters and that you will go the extra mile to keep them.

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No one wants to deal with upset customers, but the silver lining is that if you know how to deal with upset customers, you can actually increase customer loyalty to your brand – all it takes is the right customer service training to ensure that you’re endearing, and not alienating customers, when you deal with their issues.