5 Telephone Etiquette Tips to Help You Deal with Angry Customers


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In order to pre­pare your­self and your team for the bar­rage of cus­tomer calls that will come with many heavy shop­ping sea­sons of the year (Valentine’s Day, Black Fri­day, Cyber Mon­day, post-holidays, and so much more).… with every­thing from cus­tomers inquir­ing about your return and exchange poli­cies, to ques­tions about how to install the new prod­uct that they received for Christ­mas. With so many calls it’s nat­ural to expect that you will hear from a num­ber of impa­tient, frus­trated, or just flat-out angry cus­tomers.

What’s the best way to deal with angry cus­tomers? Are there sure-fire responses that will dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion? We all know that if your cus­tomer reps use scripts, they will sound robotic and, well, “scripted,” but when tough sce­nar­ios arise, it does help to have guided responses for your reps. Below are five help­ful tele­phone eti­quette tips to steer poten­tially neg­a­tive con­ver­sa­tions into more pos­i­tive con­ver­sa­tions, with­out sound­ing scripted.

Tele­phone eti­quette tip #1: Avoid “I don’t know”

It’s com­mon for cus­tomers to ask ques­tions that the rep doesn’t have an answer for, but instead of say­ing “I don’t know,” guide your reps to frame the response pos­i­tively. A great alter­na­tive response would be:

That’s a great ques­tion. I’ll find out for you.”

Instead of frus­trat­ing the cus­tomer and pre­sent­ing a dead-end sit­u­a­tion, the rep instead turns the sit­u­a­tion into an opportunity.

Train your reps to avoid “I don’t know” when­ever pos­si­ble; teach them to reframe the unknowns into a way to offer addi­tional help.

Tele­phone eti­quette tip #2: Be care­ful how you trans­fer customers

One of the most dreaded phrases for many cus­tomers is “Let me trans­fer you.” How many times have you been trans­ferred, only to start over on an auto­matic sys­tem, or to have the call dropped? While you may not be able to avoid hav­ing to trans­fer cus­tomers to a dif­fer­ent depart­ment, you can ease cus­tomers’ wor­ries by how you explain the move.

Instead of say­ing: “Please hold while I trans­fer you,” instead try:

Let’s get this prob­lem solved for you as quickly as pos­si­ble. Angela is our spe­cial­ist in the tech depart­ment, and she’s going to help you out.”

By rephras­ing how you state a trans­fer, you’ll ease a customer’s fears of get­ting dropped and focus on the pos­i­tive – that you’re putting them on the line with some­one who spe­cial­izes in the topic.

Tele­phone eti­quette tip #3: Make the best of a defec­tive product

If a cus­tomer calls to com­plain about a defec­tive prod­uct, assume that you are already deal­ing with a frus­trated cus­tomer who doesn’t think very highly about your prod­ucts. Make lemon­ade out of lemons, as they say, with the fol­low­ing tele­phone eti­quette steps:

Be empa­thetic: The first step is to show empa­thy. Com­mu­ni­cate that you under­stand the prob­lem is frus­trat­ing and that the cus­tomer is upset.

Offer some sort of expla­na­tion: Next, let the cus­tomer know that there is a rea­son behind the defect – this isn’t mak­ing excuses – it’s empha­siz­ing that not all of your prod­ucts are defec­tive, and that they should expect a high-quality replacement.

Rem­edy the prob­lem: Finally, offer a rem­edy. Tell the cus­tomer you will ship out a replace­ment right away or offer a refund.

Dam­aged or defec­tive prod­ucts are inevitable, but los­ing an angry cus­tomer because of it is not. How you han­dle the sit­u­a­tion can make all the difference.

Tele­phone eti­quette tip #4: When you can’t bend the rules, offer a win­ning alternative

There are cer­tain rules that you can’t break for a cus­tomer, but instead of leav­ing the cus­tomer frus­trated and dis­ap­pointed, offer an alter­na­tive so that the cus­tomer still feels like he is still get­ting what he wants. For exam­ple, if a cus­tomer is try­ing to get a dis­count on a sale that has already expired, instead of telling the customer:

I’m sorry, the sale is over, and we are no longer offer­ing that discount.”

Try this:

Gosh, really unfor­tu­nate tim­ing. The sale ends on Jan­u­ary 3rd, but if you don’t mind wait­ing until March, we’ll be offer­ing our anniver­sary sale, and you can get the item for 20% off. Would you be will­ing to wait until then?”

In this sce­nario, you’re not break­ing rules for your com­pany, and you’re not telling the cus­tomer an out­right no, either – you’re offer­ing an alter­na­tive sit­u­a­tion that still gives the cus­tomer the option he’s after.

Tele­phone eti­quette tip #5: Don’t let the cus­tomer hang up until you know he or she is satisfied

Finally, how you close the call is extremely impor­tant. Before you let the cus­tomer hang up, take the small step of ask­ing if there is any­thing else that you can assist with. Here is a fan­tas­tic way to wrap up a call:

Thanks again for tak­ing the time to call today. Is there any­thing else I can help with? I’d be happy to assist with any­thing else you need.”

A clos­ing line such as this shows your appre­ci­a­tion for the cus­tomer, makes sure the cus­tomer is sat­is­fied, and it com­mu­ni­cates your will­ing­ness to keep help­ing, if need be. This type of closer is espe­cially effec­tive if you’ve had an angry cus­tomer – it ends the con­ver­sa­tion on a pos­i­tive note.


Improve how your team works with angry cus­tomers by offer­ing the right kind of cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing. Fol­low tips, like the above, that encour­ages the use of guided responses so that your cus­tomer reps have a tool­box of options to choose from. Your reps won’t sound scripted, and they’ll leave the cus­tomer with a pos­i­tive impression.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jodi Beuder
We help organizations create a positive connection between customers and brands. We promote synergy through integration as it builds on the decades of collective history of renowned expertise. MHI Global is your comprehensive source for customer-management excellence solutions to compete in today's ever-changing, customer-centric environment.


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