How to deal with difficult customers over the phone thumbnail image Published on 6th September 2017 by Gemma Harding

With some 60% of consumers making the decision not to do business with a brand in the face of just one poor customer-care experience, according to the 2016 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, the customer service you offer as a company is integral to long-term success.

Team this with the fact an unhappy customer tells up to 15 people (as revealed by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs), bad customer experiences could have a lasting impact on your reputation.

The prospect of a dissatisfied customer fills even the most experienced call centre operator with dread. Yes, dealing with difficult customers is a fine art, but with our step-by-step guide you can leave even the most aggravated caller with a smile on their face.

Understand the types of ‘difficult’

There are several types of difficult customer, which doesn’t make the process of defusing negative situations over the phone any easier.

While the techniques detailed below help operators deal with all customer types, it helps to get to know the main kinds of ‘difficult’ so you can adapt your answering style accordingly.

Here are just some of the irate customers you may encounter:

    • The legitimate customer

Let’s face it, no company is perfect and mistakes do happen. As the name suggests, this customer has a legitimate reason to complain.

    • The offloading customer

Sometimes people just need to vent, and all too often offloaders have no legitimate grievance against your company.

    • The abusive customer

Anger does get the better of most, but remember no call-centre staff member needs to put up with personal insults.

    • The threatening customer

Threats should also not be tolerated. Not to be confused with the abusive customer, threat-makers are notoriously difficult to appease.

Stay calm and in control

The phrase ‘keep calm and carry on’ has never been more appropriate.

Patience is definitely a trait that comes in handy when working in a call centre. While no two customers are the same, exercising patience and understanding their grievance has a calming effect on even the angriest caller. Work in a relaxed manner towards a happy and favourable resolution.

Let them vent and listen carefully

Whatever type of irate customer you’re dealing with, never, ever argue back. The natural reaction is to defend yourself and the brand that you so proudly represent, but by letting the caller express their dissatisfaction, you can listen and take steps towards resolving their issue.

You’re there to help, after all, and by lending an ear, you can gather all the information you need to successfully serve your customer and your company.

Don’t take it personally

Being the first port of call for the company you represent is, of course, a great honour, especially when the calls you receive offer messages of positive feedback. But what if the subject matter of the call is less favourable?

Even though you didn’t cause the problem they’re reporting, more often than not (as the first point of contact) angry customers will take all their frustrations out on you. Don’t take it personally – instead concentrate on listening to their issues and express plenty of empathy.

Know when (and how) to say sorry

Customer care is all about using the right words and phrases, especially when it comes to dealing with an angry customer.

There’s one phrase, however, that will have more success than others when handling calls from dissatisfied consumers. Saying “I’m sorry” at the right time isn’t easy. A prime time to apologise is after you’ve listened intently to what the customer has to say and before you take further action to remedy the issue.

Work hard to resolve the issue

Now you have a firm grasp of the problem and have sincerely apologised on your company’s behalf, work can begin to solve the issue. There are many steps you can take to get the customer experience back on the right track once more. However, be aware overcompensating may do more damage to your brand than good. Ensure the solution you provide is fair for all involved.

Here at CALLCARE we understand that not every call we receive on your behalf will be a happy one. Our call-centre staff are professionally trained and experienced in defusing difficult situations, meaning all calls are handled professionally from start to finish.

Whether you need assistance with all calls or just the calls your in-house team can’t answer, our virtual receptionist service provides a truly comprehensive call-handling solution.