Calm Down! How to Deal with Frustrated Customers


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We’ve all been that angry customer at one point or another. You know, the one who gets frustrated after waiting on hold for five minutes.

It’s not fun being on the other end of the phone, either: when you’re the company dealing with a disgruntled customer. So how do you deal with angry customers — who more often than not have a right to be irritated — and effectively defuse problems before they become major issues?

It’s all in the approach. In customer service, we often regard customers as the opposition, when in fact they pay our salaries and allow us to keep our jobs.

They aren’t here to make your job difficult. In fact, they can make your job easier by helping you to uncover problems with your business model. Keeping this in mind, take a look at five helpful tips for effectively defusing a potential customer service explosion.

  1. Remain Calm

Customers have the right to get emotional and point the finger when something doesn’t meet their expectations. There isn’t room for two heated parties.

It’s your job to remain calm and add balance to the situation. There’s nothing to be gained by escalating, even if you know you’re in the right and the customer is obviously wrong. How you keep your cool is a personal matter. Everyone is wired differently.

For example, in order to retain perspective during confrontational calls, a help-desk worker in San Jose posts a vacation photo of his family in his cubicle. He puts it right at eye level and looks at it any time he feels challenged to remain calm.

Whatever you have to do, just do it. Don’t take it out on the customer.

  1. Listen to the Problem

More often than not, the customer has a legitimate issue that needs to be solved. Before you can help the customer fix it, you have to hear him out.

Listen to what the person has to say, offer words of reassurance, and allow her or him to talk through the matter. You can learn a lot about where the customer’s coming from and determine how best to help by simply processing what he or she says.

  1. Show You Care

There’s a difference between remaining calm and being submissive. You can’t afford to be the latter in customer service.

But you also don’t want to come across as aggressive. So where’s the middle ground? It’s actually rather simple: Show you care.

Whenever Albert Scaglione, founder and CEO of the largest art dealer in the world, talks about success, he inevitably discusses passion. That’s because like others, he believes truly caring about what you do is a major component of succeeding.

“You have to be passionate and be willing to work your butt off,” Scaglione told the Huffington Post. Whether it’s art or customer service, genuine passion tells the people you’re interacting with that you really care about the situation.

  1. Don’t Take it Personally

The most successful professionals are the ones who are able to separate business from their personal lives. Whether you’re a business owner or customer service rep, you mustn’t take customer complaints personally.

Take them seriously, but don’t take them personally. As soon as you feel like a situation defines who you are, you’ll begin to get emotional and shut down.

Neither reaction is productive when you’re dealing with a customer in need. Keep this in mind and you’ll be much better off.

  1. Say the Customer’s Name

There’s magic in using a person’s name. It grabs their attention, makes them feel like a person, and ultimately calms them down.

“Once you use a name, you’re suddenly speaking with a real person; a client who has a job and a life and a legitimate reason behind his or her frustration, rather than a faceless ‘ma’am,’ ” says Avery Augustine, a former technical support employee.

Make it a practice to get the individual’s name at the beginning of any phone conversation and use it throughout the discussion. Also, make sure you give the customer your name.

When you use each other’s names, a faceless interaction becomes more personal. In many cases, this alone can make the situation less hostile.

Don’t Lose the Customer (or Your Cool)

When you’re dealing with a disgruntled customer, the goal is to solve the problem and salvage the customer. The worst thing that can happen is to lose that customer’s future business.

It may cost something up front, but satisfying the customer’s immediate concern is nearly always more profitable than letting him go. 

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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