Join Fancy Mills for an in-depth discussion in this video Customer behavior profiles: Combative, part of IT Service Desk: Customer Service Fundamentals.
- Now let's look at the combative customer. These customers want to argue or blame someone, or sometimes they are just downright angry. They're passionate, intense, and they want to let us know. So let's listen to an example. - Thank for you calling the service desk. This is Anice. May I have your last name and customer number? - Yes, it's Brown, number 7890. - Thank you, how can I assist you today? - Well, you could start by explaining to me what is going on with your system, and why I had to wait on hold for so long. - I apologize for the wait, sir.
How can I assist you? - You guys always make changes during the busiest time of the season which totally messes with my numbers. Why has that happened? - Let's look to see what changes were made in the system. That will help me better determine what's going on. - You don't need to look into your system. I am telling you there was an update last night and now I can't access the system. - Let me look to see what changes were made and if there any known issues this morning. - Again, are you not listening to me? I'm telling you there are. - Okay, what specifically is happening to your system? - Why do I need to tell you? Can't you just see it from there? - Yes, sir, I can remote in if you prefer, and then we can look together.
- You know I'm not sure I want you on my system looking around today. You guys already crashed it. - Remoting is the easiest and fastest way to isolate issues and fix them. - You know I think instead I need to talk to your boss because I'm really sick and tired of having to call you guys every week about this. All right, someone needs to know how bad this is. - Yes, I can transfer you. Let me document this information, see who's available, and then I'll send you over. Would you mind if I placed you on hold for two minutes so I can see who's available? - Well, why not? I mean you've already taken up so much of my time. Good grief. - A combative customer may try to demean or belittle you.
Do not take it personally. I once had a customer tell me I was stupid, I don't know what I'm talking about, and what I was telling him wouldn't work. It's a lot to take in from someone that you're trying to help. The best thing to do in that situation is mute the line, take a deep breath, ignore the comment, and keep moving politely. Strategies for the combative customer include remain calm, don't get draw into an argument, don't get defensive or make excuses, acknowledge but don't validate or agree with any statements.
Allow them time to vent, softly redirect with acknowledgement, escalate if needed, especially if they request it. If language starts to become volatile or inappropriate, then attempt recovery and/or escalate. The key is to remain calm, positive, and non-combative. Keep a calm pace and tone. Don't let the customer know that they've upset you even if they have. Now if a customer becomes volatile, uses profanity, threatens you, that becomes a completely different contact.
Every service desk should have a process for how to handle these types of situations. What's yours? At one point in our example, the customer says, "You guys always make changes during the busy season. "Why do you do that?" instead of arguing, the technician simply responded, "Let's look to see what changes were made." Combative customers want attention, often to argue or correct technicians. They want their story to be heard. But in reality, they are like every other customer.
They ultimately want their issue fixed. By using these strategies, combative customers can become contained.
First, Fancy provides guidance on how to use the right types of questions to gather information about an issue. Then, she explains how to professionally handle common customer service tasks, like escalating and transferring calls. Then, she shows how to hone interactions with customers by refining communications—acknowledging how tone and word choice can diffuse tension. She wraps up by covering common customer behavior scenarios in which the tools, techniques, and strategies from the course can be applied.
- Greeting and validating contacts
- Asking investigative and diagnostic questions
- Confirming and validating responses
- Reaching resolution and closure
- Using mute or hold on a call
- Escalating or transferring a call
- Building rapport over the phone, in writing, and face-to-face
- Refining word choice, style, and tone
- Managing conflict effectively
- Recovering unsatisfied customers
- Redirecting customers
- Identifying customer behavior