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DEALING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS
10
12 January 2015

Angry Customers and How to Defuse Tricky Situations

We’ve all been there. We’re confronted with upset or angry customers and the situation is turning towards boiling point. Wherever we work and whoever we represent as a company, as soon as you see the signals that the customer is angry, regardless of the cause – you need a tactical toolbox with effective techniques to turn down the tension.

Taken from my customer focus workshop “How to Handle Angry Customers“ below is a selection of practical tips and things to remember you can pull out of your own tactical toolbox when dealing and communicating with those very tricky people.

So, what does an upset customer want?

The answer to this is varied. They want to be taken seriously and treated with respect expecting you to conduct yourself professionally and confidently responding to their serious concern. This is sometimes difficult when the customer is clearly at fault trying to point the finger. They may want someone to be punished, searching for compensation or to feel assured the problem doesn’t reoccur. Setting this aside, fundamentally, customers initially want one thing; to be listened to.

Reflective listening with angry customers

Listening effectively and carefully to angry customers, showing them you’re really listening will positively start the process to calm them down. Naturally this can be difficult in a heated tense situation, especially if you haven’t developed effective listening habits. Here are a few tips for effective listening:

Focus on words rather than tone

Focus on what the speaker is saying, not how it is being said. Among the noise, sarcasm and anger, try to listen carefully and tap into the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.

Listen for facts and feelings

A customer may not always say he’s angry, but through his voice you’ll certainly know loud and clear the tension building. Listen attentively for emotions as well as the facts.

Take notes

This shows you’re serious about their concern and ready to document certain facts. Make sure you do this slighter later in the conversation as this tends to lose eye contact. Take a few important brief notes such as dates, times and numbers.

Block out emotional words

When we’re upset we don’t always communicate clearly. Try not to let emotional words block the message. Among the abuse, criticism, or rather unpleasant things said about you and your company, try to manage your feelings and don’t let your angry customers get “the upper-hand“ in this way. If you get upset – you’ve lost objectivity. You need to remain in control if you have any chance of finding an answer to this situation.

Avoid interrupting

When someone is fuelled with anger, interrupting them or trying to finish their sentences will just make things worse – adding fuel to the fire. Let them vent their anger. Wait until they’ve completely finished their phrases before you respond.

Reconfirm understanding

A good way to move forward and avoid misunderstandings is simply to repeat back to the customer what you’ve understood. Use a sentence like “Let’s see if I understand…” or perhaps “I think I understand…” then continue by paraphrasing what the customer said. Something like “So, what you’re trying to say is…” suggests the customer can’t say what he actually means. Another phrase I would also avoid is “What I hear you saying is…”

Here are a few more nuggets to remember when dealing with angry customers.

Create a team with your customer

When you form a team or partnership it becomes the two of you together working towards a solution, rather than a conflict between you and the customer.

Handling the persistent customer

You might find reaching a common agreement is a tough task, so I would suggest you make certain comments that direct the customer toward finding a viable solution.

“What would you like the next steps to be?”

“What would you say is a fair way to settle this?”

“What would make you happy?”

“Is there anything I can say to get to a solution?”

If the customer’s suggestion falls within your guidelines, accept it but If not, try to make a counter-proposal. Believe it or not, what your angry customers will ask for is actually less than you might have offered in the first place.

Don’t take things personally

I’m sure we’ve heard this phrase hundreds of times but when we’re face-to-face trying to deal with abusive angry customers, it’s far from easy. See this as a challenge. A challenge to manage yourself in this tense environment. As a result, you’ll be able to effectively start to manage your customer’s feelings in a way that defuses anger.

Does your company team need to refresh their techniques when dealing with tricky customer situations? Do you need some valuable insights into dealing with angry customers? Get in touch to arrange a visit to your company sharing the “How to deal with angry customers” workshop full of practical advice, proven techniques and useful customer service phrases.