4 Tips for Diffusing Customer Anger

Guest Post by Joanna Jones of MHI Global

Contact center agents often take the brunt of angry customer interactions. As self-serve options become increasingly common, the reasons behind a customer communicating through phone or chat are changing. What this means for the contact center is the types of calls coming into a center are more technical and require greater levels of service. The nature of more technical calls means that customers are more likely to be frustrated or angry, which means managers need to ensure that training is up-to-date so agents have proper tools for handling an angry caller.

When agents are aggressively confronted by a customer it can trigger the "fight or flight" response and suddenly you have a much bigger problem to deal with. There are some tried-and-true ways for communicating with angry customers that can diffuse the situation so the right solution can be found. Training agents on creating a LASTing impression is an easy guide for interacting with angry customers.

1. L is for LISTEN. By the time a customer reaches an agent, s/he has had plenty of time to get worked up and think about what to say. It won't take long for agents to sense that they are working with someone who is upset. Upon such a realization it is important to LISTEN to the customer without interruption. Interrupting a customer when s/he needs to vent can make the situation worse. Agents need to be trained in how to effectively listen so they can decipher what the customer is trying to communicate in their anger. Getting the details is important for resolution.

2. A is for APOLOGIZE. Apologizing doesn't mean that the agent accepts responsibility for the customer's problem, rather it conveys that the agent empathizes with the customer. An example of an empathetic, yet reactive, apology might sound like, "I'm sincerely sorry that you've had this experience with our product. Perhaps there was an error in our manufacturing process, or the damage occurred during shipping. No matter, would you like me to ship a new one to you today or do you prefer a refund?"

3. S is for SOLVE. This part of the conversation requires the most skill as agents must first identify the root cause of the issue then ask effective and appropriate questions so a solution can be found. Presenting a solution that offers choices and flexibility allows the customer to feel s/he has options and can select what's best.

4. T is for THANK. Thanking the customer for bringing the problem to your attention and giving you an opportunity to correct the problem assures them that they are valued as a customer. Similar to offering an apology, thanking a customer should be sincere.

Communicating with customers when they are angry requires training and practice in using the right language without becoming defensive. At the end of the day, training agents how to respond to upset customers is good for the bottom line, for morale and for creating positive customer experiences.

Joanna Jones is a professional copywriter and marketing strategist who has partnered with MHI Global for five years. As a marketing professional, Joanna works closely with customer service teams and helps companies improve their B2B and B2C communications and strategy. joanna@jonesandquinn.com



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