This story is a version of a post published here.
Being in the customer-service field is, by and large, extremely rewarding. You have the power to make a difference to people’s lives and make them happy. Not many professions offer such opportunities. However, the flip side to being in this field is that you can come across customers that are dissatisfied, annoyed or even enraged!
A customer service centre, popularly known as a call centre, is the battle ground where the service representatives provide everyday solutions to customers. I am calling it a battle ground because most of the times, customers that call in are irate and frustrated, wanting to sort out a grievance. Handling such customers can take a toll on the executive. However, the executive must remember that how he deals with such a circumstance would determine whether the customer will remain with the brand or choose to move to a competitor. This job is also specially challenging because all the customer gets to hear is an executive’s voice. It is only the power of words and the tone that will help make the situation better.
Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
But, how do you deal with irate customers without getting irate or angry yourself? Here are a few tips that will help in aiding such customers:
Be kind and empathetic
Repeat and Confirm
Solve the problem
Ensure a happy closing
The first few seconds of a call usually give you a heads up of the customer’s mood and his query. If you know that it is going to be one of those calls where a customer is agitated, then adjust your headset and have your notepad ready. Go ahead and just listen. SIMPLY LISTEN. As the customer shares his poor experience, ensure that you listen actively. Make a note of the keywords like dates, time and names. Nothing aggravates the situation more that getting incorrect information.
An angry customer is at the peak of his frustration when he calls. But, how you handle the first few minutes of the call will determine whether that frustration peaks or ebbs. One sure shot way to ensure that you ebb the agitation is to not interrupt when the customer is speaking. Remember that the customers might be calling only to vent. Be calm and composed when they are venting out their experience, acknowledging throughout. Only after they have given you an account of the complete situation must you begin speaking.
Also, many a times, the harsh tone of the customer might prompt you to speak up to defend yourself or your employer. However, you must maintain your integrity at all times and never answer back. While it might be tough, be the bigger and better person!
One winning tip for all executives is to never take a customer’s complaint personally. Remind yourself that the customer isn’t angry with you, but with the situation he/she is in. Being empathetic and respectfully acknowledging the concerns during the conversation will help ameliorate the customer’s anger. Take a minute to step into the customer’s shoes; you might have reacted in the same way if you had to face a similar situation.
As mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that all the customer can hear is your voice. The body language, the genuineness, the warmth – all of this is conveyed to the customer only through your voice. Empathetic words such as ‘I understand’, ‘I’m sorry to hear that’, and ‘I will try my best to help you…’ will make the customer ease up a little.
Once the entire complaint has been noted and understood, genuinely apologise and then reconfirm the details with the keywords. This will act like a summary and will instil the confidence that you were actually listening, eventually helping the customer to calm down. From there on, it would be just a discussion between two individuals trying to sort out a problem and finding the best solution.
When you have heard all that is to be heard, take complete ownership of the issue and make the customer believe that you will offer him the best possible resolution. Offer possible options to solve the problem along with the respective timescales. If you have not been able to resolve the complaint by yourself, offer a call back. Make a genuine effort to resolve the grievance and follow through.
There might be instances when you will have to liaise with other departments to resolve a problem. It might be tempting to wash your hands off a problem and transfer the grievance to another department. However, you must never make a customer feel that you are passing the buck or that you are incapable of handling the situation. This only aggravates the issue further.
In the end, along with being thankful to the customer for his patience, ask him if there would be anything else that he would like to discuss. This will leave a positive image of you and the company. The customer would certainly go back happy, despite being irritated and enraged when the call started.
Remember that you have not closed the loop until you have followed up with the customer and ensured that his problem has been resolved. A follow up call or an email is a great way to cement your relationship with your customer. It just goes on to show how much you care for the customer.
Handling irate customers is a part and parcel of the job profile for any service representative. The above tips will ensure that you resolve such complaints effectively. Are there any other pointers that will help in handling irate customers? Do let us know!