De-escalating frustrated customers

By Tracy Robinson

Have you ever purchased an item from a store and discovered it was broken when you got it home? Or picked up your car after a service call, and discovered that the issue wasn’t fixed? Let me guess, you probably called the company to complain, or find solutions.

We are all consumers, and we all understand how frustrating it can be when our expectations aren’t met. In our company, we have customer experience representatives (CSRs) to field complaint calls and be there for our customers. Generally, the CSRs are helping customers when they’re frustrated, and the techniques they use help de-escalate tensions so that calls don’t become contentious.

When a customer is not happy with the service they’ve received, they may call your company in an agitated state. You, your CSRs, or your frontline team, must navigate these situations and guard your company’s reputation. You must be prepared to help address customer concerns of all kinds. Before you pick up the phone, review these 10 simple steps to better customer service.


10 Steps to calming an upset customer

  1. Stay calm; it’s not personal. You are there to help, and need to keep your work hat on at all times. The customer is likely not upset with you personally, but for now, you are the voice and ears of your company. Let the customer know right off the bat with your tone and demeanor that they are dealing with a calm professional who’s here to help.


  1. Empathy is key. There is power in empathy, but it can’t be faked. Use inflection to demonstrate how much you care and want to help your customer resolve their issue. An empathetic response to an angry customer can help soothe emotional moments. Remember, most customers just want to be heard.


  1. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns. Be an active listener for your customers. Sometimes in customer service, the most effective part of communicating with a customer is simply listening. After the customer has shared their concern with you, make sure to repeat back what you heard. This way, both you and your customer will be on the same page when it comes to resolving the problem.


  1. Reassure the customer. Tell the customer you have their back, and are there to support and assist in any way you can. Reassure your customer that you are there to help set them up for success.


  1. Focus on the facts. When facing a tense customer interaction, it’s very important to focus on the facts, and keep emotions in check. This helps show the customer just how much you have been listening and keeps everyone on track. If the conversation veers away from the reason the customer called, bring it back by focusing on the facts.


  1. Be authentic and be human. People are being replaced by automatic voice service systems in all fields of work. When customers make the effort to call your company, keep in mind they wanted to talk with a real person; they wanted an actual service provider to help fulfill their needs. That need for human connection is an important way to build trust with a company. Be mindful that your customer can take their money and do business with anyone, but they decided to give your company a chance. Here’s your opportunity to show them just how wonderful doing business with you can be! Be genuine and empathetic.


  1. Allow the customer to express themselves. No one likes to be cut off or interrupted when they’re angry. The more you interrupt a customer while they’re explaining what’s wrong, the less they will trust your company, and the people within it. Customers do not want to repeat themselves; they already had to carve out time to call you, and they want things resolved. You may be on your 55th call of the day, but your customer has only called your company once, and deserves your undivided attention.


  1. Offer proactive solutions. Have multiple options for resolving issues to a customer’s satisfaction. Connect with peers or your management team to research and help build more options. When talking to clients, focus on expressing what you can and will do, rather than what you can’t. Try language like, “Mr. Smith, what I can do for you today to resolve this concern is…”


  1. Jot down the customer’s suggestions. Sometimes there are answers right in front of us, and sometimes the customer will answer their own questions. When you connect and converse with people, it’s easy to focus on being the “information provider,” but you can also collect new ideas from others. Maybe a web developer is a customer of yours, and has a few suggestions on improving your site. Maybe a frequent buyer has a great idea for a special your company could run. Keep an open mind and a working pen to jot things down.


  1. Maintain a positive attitude. Generating and maintaining a positive attitude is at least 80 per cent of the work that goes into being successful in customer service. When you go into your day with a positive attitude, you are less likely to internalize stressful calls. With a positive mindset, chances are you will go into each customer interaction with the intention to resolve their concerns. With a great attitude and can-do mindset, you’ve already won most of the day!