In order to deal with an angry customer, it is most important to acknowledge their anger, and then we can deal with the issues and feelings in order to help resolve their conflicts. A customer service agent does not have to be bullied or made the victim, and it is never necessary to make excuses for poor behavior if a customer steps over the line with comments or unacceptable behaviors.
If a customer service agent becomes aggressive and defensive, nobody wins. It's easy to learn what phrases and words are apt to start fights, so replacing them with better phrases can accomplish a peaceful and friendly resolution. A high percentage of conflict comes from the poor choices or ineffective use of language. When someone perceives what you say to be confrontational or less than cooperative, people can react with nasty, insulting, or bullying remarks - none of which solves anything.
So what can you do or say to diffuse some of the anger you might encounter from a customer? Here are some suggestions:
- First you need to listen. Pay special attention to your speed and loudness as you respond. When people are excited they tend to talk louder and faster which in turn can escalate the other person's actions. As we get louder, we tend to concentrate less on the real issues.
- Think very carefully before you respond; you need not reply immediately, and in your head you should be asking how you can deal with the situation to abate the customer's anger first?
- Never get confrontational. Even if the customer gets personal and negative, it is up to you to turn the conversation into a constructive and cooperative exchange. If a person can bully you and sucker you into insults and reacting to abuse, they are in control. If someone persists in being nasty or starts to yell, you can tell them you will not be able to work with them.
- If you figure out that you are being swept into the drama, think about taking a breather. Avoid saying something like, "I'm not going to talk about this with you anymore." That is simply going to make the problem worse, but if you make the commitment to "discuss this tomorrow and what time is good for you?," there is the idea that a resolution could be on the horizon, and a mutual agreement between two people is possible.
- Never lose control, but acknowledge your feelings and be able to refocus on the issue. People need to be assertive and empathetic without being manipulative or aggressive.