The 8 Worst Ways to Handle Angry Customers

Call Center | 4 minute read

As a customer service leader, you know that not every interaction is going to go smoothly. It comes with the territory – having thick skin is essential for a CSR. Sometimes it’s easy to maintain your composure while dealing with a customer complaint, other times it’s more difficult. Whether the customer is entitled to their anger is not worth debating, the only thing you can do is try not to escalate the situation any further. We’ve all been there, we put our ego before the situation and things get out of control. A lot of people talk about HOW to handle customer rage properly, but are we doing things to enable this behavior?

Be aware of these 8 horrible habits that can sometimes manifest without realizing it; we are humans after all:

1. Getting Defensive

One of the worst ways to calm a frustrated customer down is by trying to explain why something went wrong. They don’t want to know WHY it went wrong, they just want it fixed. Your priority should be to address that an issue has occurred and let them know you will fix it. Don’t waste time on explanations and digging yourself a deeper hole. Our latest live discussion explains this in more detail.

2. Taking it Too Personally

It’s hard not to react when someone is shouting at you, but you need to be aware that the customer is not mad at YOU, they are mad at the overall experience. By understanding that something, most likely out of your control, has caused this person to become enraged the better off you’ll be. Instead put yourself in their position and tell them how you would be equally upset if this happened to you.

Raising Your Voice

3. Raising Your Voice

An absolute no-no. The worst thing you can do if a person is screaming at you, or giving you attitude, is replying with the same forceful tone. If you address someone who is upset in an even-tempered way, they will eventually come down to your level. They’ll soon realize how irrational they are behaving, in comparison to your disposition. Otherwise you’ll end up escalating the situation even further.

4. Ignoring Their Concerns

Maybe they’re worried about the wrong thing, and maybe you know that, so you step over their nattering to reach a solution. It might sound like the quickest way to resolve the problem, but they might feel shut out from the conversation, which could stress them out even more. You need to address what they are contacting you about first, and explain the necessary line of action to ensure it’s fixed. Walk them through your thought process as you aim to resolve the problem, this way they aren’t left in the dark.

5. Showing Lack of Empathy

This was briefly mentioned earlier, but needs to be reinforced properly. Empathy is the number one reason why customers report low satisfaction scores. You must try to always put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If they are extremely irrational, and you can’t find common ground, try at the very least to remain tolerant. If empathy and accuracy still doesn’t make them feel better, know when to escalate a conversation to your supervisor. This customer wants to feel validated and important, and maybe you just aren’t the one to do this.

6. Being Slow to Respond

Besides empathy, speed of response is the second most important customer service target, and depending on the channel of resolution, speed can rise above empathy. If hold times are too long, offering a call-back can reduce customer frustration well before they reach an agent. In other channels, such as social media, response is critical to ensuring a customer does not lose their cool. If a customer sends an angry tweet, e-mail, or chat, the best thing to do is reply immediately to let them know you are available to them. It’s not about knowing all the answers right away, but showing concern as quickly as possible.

7. Acting AloofActing Aloof

This is in the same vein as being slow to respond; showing lack of urgency for someone’s issue could set them off even more. It may be a simple request, but to the customer it’s extremely important for them to have it resolved. Their time is important to them, and nothing is worse than speaking to an entitled agent talk about how worse things could have happened. Give each customer the attention they crave, it’s important to know that some need more than others.

8. Not Asking for Feedback

After resolving an issue, especially one where the customer seemed upset and on edge, it’s extremely important to see how they are feeling after the experience. This is a great way to smooth out any hiccups that occurred over the call, and show them you care about how they feel. This could be the difference between a lost customer, and a brand advocate.


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