Contact center agents regularly encounter frustrated and disappointed customers, especially during the holidays. Add in a stressful pandemic with slower than usual mail deliveries, and customer service agents are still dealing with the aftermath of the COVID holiday season. Fortunately, it is possible to calm irate customers, even this guy…
Whether you’re a manager or an agent, providing excellent service while maintaining grace under pressure is a priority. Here are four easy tips to follow when handling angry customers in the post-holiday season.
1. Listen Before Acting
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many agents lack basic listening skills. In fact, soft skills, such as listening skills, are not taught in many contact centers. But this is a basic skill that every agent needs to have.
Angry customers tend to vent all their frustrations (even the ones not related to the call) to anyone who will listen. And really, they just want somebody to hear them. And they don’t want anyone to interrupt until they are finished.
So the first step is to be patient and practice active listening skills. Don’t even start taking notes until the customer has finished explaining the reason for the call. Taking notes during the initial contact can irritate the caller even more, especially if they can tell the agent is distracted or typing.
You’ll also want to make sure that you aren’t speaking over the caller. We’ve already covered why overtalk can intensify customer frustration. Starting the call by fully listening to the customer is an easy way to avoid this. Once the customer has finished explaining the situation, then you can start taking notes and taking the next steps.
2. Acknowledge the Customer’s Frustration
Many customers feel that when they tell an agent about the problem, agents all too often come across as disinterested in both the situation and the caller’s feelings. Customers want to feel validated, no matter what.
So after listening to the caller’s grievances, say something empathetic like, “That must have been infuriating,” or “I would be frustrated, too!” And make sure the tone conveys that empathy. This will go a long way in helping the customer feel the agent is taking the problem seriously.
3. Apologize, A Lot
Agents should also apologize. It may sound overly simple, but a sincere “I’m sorry” can do wonders for expressing goodwill towards the customer. Even if it’s not the agent’s fault (and it often isn’t), and even if it’s not necessarily the company’s fault, the agent can demonstrate that they realize the customer deserves an apology for the situation.
Whether or not agents are following a script, remembering to apologize is a necessity during calls with angry customers. So make sure it’s either part of the scripted responses or train agents to apologize at key moments. That small expression of empathy can lead to improving the overall customer experience.
4. Assure Customers That the Problem Will Be Solved
Listening, acknowledging, and apologizing are all helpful, but what the customer ultimately wants is to resolve the problem. Agents can further soothe irritated customers with strong declarations, such as, “Let’s fix this right now.” This conveys a tone of confidence and can help reassure customers they are speaking with somebody who is dedicated to resolving the current issue.
Simply reassuring customers lets them know that the situation is in good hands, even if the issue can’t be resolved on the first call.
One final tip: Turn complaints into opportunities. As agents learn how to successfully calm angry customers, it will ultimately help build loyalty because that customer will remember how angry they were and how well they were treated. Not only will you end up with a happy customer, but you have also gained a loyal customer in the process.