At times, you may face difficult service challenges, angry customers, and frustrating service mess ups. Learn ways to survive and thrive when the environment throws curve balls.
- In your role as an agent, you'll inevitably interact with angry customers. Yeah, it comes with the territory. Their anger could be caused by a process or a product that's gone awry. They may have already had a bad experience as they attempted to get resolution. Or maybe their anger is misplaced. Your organization hasn't dropped the ball, but, for any number of reasons, the customer is frustrated or they're confused. And some feel they'll get better service if they express their unhappiness and warn of consequences. I'm going to take my business elsewhere, or I'm going to give you bad reviews.
While customers can certainly be angry in any channel, chat, text, email, whatever, I'll focus here on verbal communication and the dialog taking place. The same core elements apply. First, keep calm. Remember the customer's anger is not directed at you. Don't match their tone. Be professional and even-keeled. And more often than not, the customer will begin to match your tone. There's a 3,000 year old proverb that says a gentle answer turns away wrath.
Many experienced agents will say, yep, always stay kind and polite. That goes such a long way to calming things down. Next, allow the customer to tell their story and listen carefully to the words they say. Don't be distracted by their angry tone. Use verbal prompts along the way to let them know you're with them, such as I see, please go on. Ask questions as appropriate, but don't interrupt. Summarize the situation in your own words. Show that you're listening by repeating their main points.
You can start by saying something like, I want to make sure I have this right, or let me repeat back to you what I'm hearing. Apologize when appropriate. If your company messed up, acknowledge it in a sincere way. You can say something like, I'm sorry that happened and I understand why you're frustrated, I'm going to do everything I can to help. Own the solution. Recognize that you may have to take some extra steps to resolve the issue. Imagine that it's you in the customer's situation. What would you like to see happen? Take the actions and involve others as necessary.
When feasible, offer options. That can help the customer feel like they've gained back some of the control they lost due to the problem. Finally, if the customer becomes abusive or threatens harm, follow your organization's guidelines. For example, know what to do if there's a physical threat to you or your facility. These situations require specific protocols, such as involving others or contacting authorities. You can summarize many of these steps with an approach that's sometimes called the HEAT model, H-E-A-T.
Hear them out, empathize, ask questions as needed, and take action. Here are a few things you should never say to an angry customer. Sorry, but. If you say the word but, you're negating everything that came before. Saying sorry, but is worse than not apologizing at all. Another is calm down. There's a saying that telling an angry person to calm down works about as well as trying to put out a fire with paper. Don't say it, you're just going to fuel their anger.
Let me speak. Let me speak will shut down lines of communication even quicker than telling customers to calm down. Of course, it's necessary that you do speak. You just don't have to preface what you say with that statement. According to our policy. Oh my goodness, you can almost see the customer roll their eyes. Instead, use a phrase such as given what's happened, here's what we can do. It's not our fault. By saying this, you're implying a lack of responsibility. Find a better way to say it, such as let's look at the options here.
Effective airline agents are great with this. Instead of saying, hey, the weather's impacted service and I can't get you on another flight until tomorrow morning, they'll say, I can get you out first thing in the morning, would you like for me to grab one of those seats? Your word choices will have a positive or negative impact on how the customer feels about the experience. There's a word choice exercise in the exercise files and I encourage you to go through it. It takes practice and building a habit, really, a lifetime of practice to find ways to ensure your impact is positive.
But you'll see, firsthand, better results as you develop this skill.