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How to Handle an Irate Customer

Customer service in not only a physically grueling profession it can also emotionally taxing, too. The most taxing of situations is the angry customer.

So, when you have a customer in front of you or on the phone that is flipping their lid, losing their god-forsaken mind, flailing, cussing and doing impressively acrobatic anger backflips for a 70 year old what do you do? How do you deal with customers like that? It’s easier than you think and, unfortunately, it doesn’t involve bludgeoning them with bags filled the ill-fitting clothes they are returning.

1. Breathe

I know, this is an overused cliché but not losing your cool is probably the most crucial part of dealing with a pissed off customer. Sure a slew of romantic comedies and lovey-dovey Hallmark movies have taught you that emotions make everything better, but refrain from becoming emotional when dealing with an angry customer. Crying, laughing or getting angry yourself will only make the customer go from angry to ballistic. No matter what the amount of verbal abuse the customer is hurling in your direction, step back and breathe. Did you just whisper “This is all impertinent, I will soon get my revenge” under your breath?

2. Direct Them

Realize that the customer is personifying their negative experience. Unfortunately, the personification of that problem is you. Don’t take it personally, look at the entry above…don’t get emotional. Try to step into the customer’s (terrifying large for lady’s size) shoes which should help you empathize with them. Listen to their story about their negative experience/problem. So, okay maybe, “don’t take it personally” isn’t extremely consistent piece of advice…maybe “take it personally but not when empathizing… then take it extremely personally”.  

3. Lend Them an Ear

Just like Shakespeare’s version of Caesar said, friends, romans, countrymen lend me your ears. Listen to Caesar, he must’ve done something right, I mean he got all those pats on the back at the end of Shakespeare’s play. That’s what happened, right? Genuinely listen to your customer’s grievances and this might even give you details into why the customer is angry in the first place. Often angry customers are angry because they believe that no one will listen to them. They just want to be heard and told everything is going to be all right…so they are very similar to tantrum throwing toddlers? No, juice boxes and animal crackers won’t calm them. On the other hand, apple juice and animal crackers can’t hurt.

4. Apologize

No matter how irreverent the complaint- yes even if they are angry because they were kicked out of the store for wearing a bikini made of plastic lobsters- make your apology genuine, heart-felt and empathetic. If you really want to survive the situation make sure your apology isn’t patronizing…if you think someone is angry try patronizing them…and then stand back and enjoy the fireworks…which will actually be spittle sprayed at you while being yelled at.

5. Promise and Resolve

So, after the customer is calm and collected, communicate that you are available to help the customer find a solution to their grievance. This might involve some negotiation, patience and of course, strong communication skills. Once you find something that the customer feels is a fair compensation for their inconvenience and mental anguish, promise them that you will personally follow up, even if you have absolutely no intention doing so. Just remember, if you don’t they will come back angrier and this time they have your name. Under that threat, that hallow promise might well become a very, very concrete and solid one.

See Also: Struggles Only Customer Service Representatives Will Understand

Do you have any other techniques that will help you  deal with a difficult customer? Let us know in the comment section below.

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