The Top 5 Ways to Deal with Upset Customers


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Work­ing in call cen­ters and the field of cus­tomer ser­vice means that inevitably, you and your team will deal with upset cus­tomers. The upset-customer spec­trum may range from slightly frus­trated to irate and yelling – but the end result will be the same if you don’t han­dle it prop­erly: You could per­ma­nently lose the customer’s busi­ness, and quite likely, that cus­tomer will tell his or her friends about the bad expe­ri­ence. The story may also be spread through social media chan­nels, as the cus­tomer uses his or her empow­ered voice to ensure that no one else has to deal with your company.

No one enjoys deal­ing with upset cus­tomers, but also keep in mind that peo­ple don’t buy a prod­uct or use a ser­vice with hopes that they can call cus­tomer ser­vice to com­plain; the cus­tomer is not sim­ply call­ing you to ruin your day. How you han­dle the customer’s com­plaint will either esca­late or dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion, which will make your life much harder or much eas­ier – and deter­mine whether or not you have lost a cus­tomer or retained his or her busi­ness. So how should you deal with upset cus­tomers to ensure the best pos­si­ble out­come? We’ve com­piled five essen­tial tips to help you out.

The moment you encounter an upset cus­tomer, your very first step is to lis­ten care­fully and be patient as your cus­tomer vents and or/explains the prob­lem. It’s nat­ural for your “hack­les” to go up when a cus­tomer is yelling or starts with per­sonal attacks, but remem­ber that behind the emo­tion is a gen­uine prob­lem, so care­fully lis­ten and be patient while the cus­tomer vents. If you start off defen­sive, it will only esca­late the customer’s anger, and it will be harder to sort through the issue and get a sense for what the real prob­lem is. Remem­ber not to take the attacks per­son­ally, even if the cus­tomer is mak­ing per­sonal accu­sa­tions toward you – the cus­tomer is look­ing for acknowl­edge­ment that he or she is angry, so rec­og­nize that there is a prob­lem and that he or she has a right to be upset. Chances are, your patient approach will help dif­fuse the anger. Once the cus­tomer is calmer, you can start work­ing on address­ing the prob­lem constructively.

Once the cus­tomer has started to calm down, it’s now time to start fig­ur­ing out how to address the prob­lem and start putting your soft skills to work. Avoid phrases such as “that’s our pol­icy,” or “you’ll have to go to our web­site” – the cus­tomer did not call you to be shut down or re-directed – the cus­tomer called to speak to a live per­son who will help solve the prob­lem. By reit­er­at­ing the issue, you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the cus­tomer that you clearly under­stand what is going on and affirm­ing to the cus­tomer that you are listening.

Instead of dis­tanc­ing your­self from the customer’s prob­lem by telling the cus­tomer that another depart­ment will help the cus­tomer, or that you’ll need to have a super­vi­sor assist with the prob­lem, let the cus­tomer know upfront that you, per­son­ally, will take respon­si­bil­ity to ensure that the issue is solved, and that you will work with the cus­tomer to make sure he or she ends up sat­is­fied. By stat­ing your respon­si­bil­ity, instead of sim­ply pass­ing the cus­tomer off (even if you will need to coor­di­nate with another depart­ment or a super­vi­sor to solve the prob­lem), you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing that you’re on the customer’s side; you’re an ally. This per­sonal approach will rein­force to the cus­tomer that he or she is being lis­tened to and that the prob­lem is being addressed. In a cus­tomer ser­vice world where cus­tomers are used to nav­i­gat­ing through auto­mated phone sys­tems and deal­ing with scripted call cen­ter reps, this per­sonal acknowl­edge­ment will stand out.

Instead of dic­tat­ing to the cus­tomer your company’s pol­icy or telling the cus­tomer what will hap­pen, re-phrase the process by say­ing some­thing such as “What would you con­sider a fair solu­tion?” When you do this, you allow the cus­tomer to be a part of the solu­tion and help set the start­ing point for a nego­ti­a­tion, as well as set a level of expec­ta­tion for the out­come. Even if the cus­tomer sug­gests some­thing that is beyond what your com­pany can offer, it gives you a start­ing point to work down from so that the cus­tomer is com­pen­sated for time lost on a ser­vice or a bro­ken product.

Once you have ended the call, your job is not over; if you have dealt with an upset cus­tomer, follow-up after a few weeks to make sure that the prob­lem was suf­fi­ciently solved and that the cus­tomer was pleased with the result. By check­ing back in, you are demon­strat­ing that your com­pany really does care that the cus­tomer is pleased, and you are let­ting the cus­tomer know that his or her busi­ness really mat­ters and that you will go the extra mile to keep them.


No one wants to deal with upset cus­tomers, but the sil­ver lin­ing is that if you know how to deal with upset cus­tomers, you can actu­ally increase cus­tomer loy­alty to your brand – all it takes is the right cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing to ensure that you’re endear­ing, and not alien­at­ing cus­tomers, when you deal with their issues.

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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