6 Strategies For Handling Customer Service Threats

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A wise man once said, “In customer service, if you aren’t receiving threats, you’re doing something wrong.”  Ok you caught me.  I made that one up.  Actually if you’re not receiving threats from customers, bravo!  I have something to learn from you.

We’ve been known to receive the occasional threat, which is to be expected when a customer becomes extremely angry.  While I’ve witnessed threats of physical violence over the years, I’m primarily referring to the type where the customer says, “If you don’t fix my problem soon, I’m going to tell all of social media how sucky you are.”

Threats of this nature are enough to trigger the defense mechanisms in even the best of us and cause our emotions to boil to the surface.  Here are six things to help you respond appropriately to threats:

1. Seek first to understand why the customer is angry.  When a customer is angry, it is likely that an event or series of events has led to that.  It is your job as a customer service representative to sift through the emotion, anger and threats and determine the cause of the frustration.

2. Take threats seriously but not personally.  In most cases, threats are not directed at you as a person.  It may just seem that way because you are the face of the company for that customer.  Realize that any threat to your company can certainly be damaging if carried out, but it is likely not your fault.  It is your job to focus on a resolution.  There is no place for threats of physical or emotional harm.  You should notify your supervisor immediately if this occurs.

3. You can’t control what the customer is going to do.  In the age of social media, customers have a much stronger voice than they previously did.  With very little effort, an angry customer can tell hundreds of people about their negative experience very quickly.  You ultimately cannot control this so don’t try.  In general, acknowledge the customer’s frustration, don’t acknowledge the threat.

4. Focus on the issues.  Do your best to dazzle the customer with your ability to resolve their issue.  Ideally they will forget their threats because you took care of the problem.

5. Don’t be a part of the problem.  I’ve been there.  Perhaps you were having a bad day, or the customer rubbed you the wrong way, or you simply got off on the wrong foot on the call.  If you feel you might have played any role in the customer being angry, make an effort to right the ship quickly and even personally apologize to the customer.

6. Find action items for improvement.  To chalk up the encounter as a crazy, irrational customer is a missed opportunity for your company.  In many cases, there is a lesson to be learned that can help your company improve the way they serve customers.  Find that nugget of wisdom and seek to improve.

Ultimately, threats are a complicated topic in customer service but then again, so are people.  The mark of an awesome customer service representative is their ability to make meaningful connections with a broad array of people and personalities, and turn the occasional threat into a satisfied customer.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.

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