How to Handle Angry Customers on the Phone: Tips on What to Say

handling unhappy customers

Call center jobs are already stressful, and dealing with frustrated customers doesn't make your job any easier. In fact, handling difficult customers over the phone is consistently listed among the top 3 reasons for turnover in the call center. Helping your agents manage irate customers and de-escalate those interactions will go a long way in reducing your team's attrition rates. Through our experience of administering cloud contact centers around the world, we have compiled a list of effective suggestions to help agents stay on their A-game, especially in tough situations and some examples of what to say in these tough situations.

De-escalation Techniques for Your Customer Service Conflict Resolution Training

Properly training your agents in handling irate customers is becoming a popular research topic. Agents have to handle problems more than likely they didn't create to ensure the customer's satisfaction. Your customer service department essentially is seen as the face of your companies brand. After receiving proper customer conflict resolution training, handling frustrated customers comes as second nature to agents! However, since it's impossible to cover every scenario in even the most efficient training sessions, here are some great de-escalation techniques for handling angry customers to include with your call center training.

Initial Responses To Angry Customer's Are Important

People tend to come off extremely aggressive and angry at the beginning of the call because they want to ensure you see how frustrated they are, but it is important to listen to what they are saying before you react. It is human nature to want to get defensive, but in customer service, you want to work towards deescalating the situation. If you get defensive and respond back in an irritated matter this just leads to an even angrier customer and take longer to reach a solution for resolving the problem. If the customer is in front of you it is extremely important to nod in agreeance and make eye contact while they are speaking.

A woman calls customer service and before you can even finish saying “Hello, my name is ___”she's already screaming about her problem. Her tone only gets louder as she continues telling you what's wrong. It is clear she is already defensive without you saying anything. Continue to listen to her, pay attention to details. Wait to respond until it is clear she is done with her opening complaint. 

Empathy Is Key In Customer Conflict Resolution

Once the customer has calmed down, they will need some time to organize their thoughts, this is the perfect opportunity to jump in! Go ahead and apologize for the inconvenience the customer is experiencing. Don’t blame someone else in the company for the problem the customer is expressing. Not only does it look extremely unprofessional to blame another employee or department, but the customer simply doesn’t care whose fault it is. They are just looking to get the problem solved as fast as possible.

I apologize that the wrong size shirt was sent to you that should have been double-checked before being mailed. It is very frustrating to look forward to a new outfit to find out the size is incorrect!"

“ I understand why you are frustrated,”

 “ I would be aggravated as well"

Be Clear And Prevent Miscommunication

Show the customer that you understand their complaint. Clearly, reiterate what they have said to make sure that you aren’t missing anything. Nothing would be worse than addressing only part of a customer's problem because of miscommunication!

I am really sorry that they billed you $175 instead of $157 on your Bluetooth headphones”

Keep Your Composure When Handling A Rude Customer

Your attitude is everything and sets the tone for the entire interaction with the customer. If you are calm, cool and collected this will help your customers adjust your customer's frustrated mood to a more relaxed one. A great way for agents to learn how to speak with angry customers is through having a call center tone training! 

Swiftly De-escalate The Situation

The customer is already aggravated and short-tempered, the last thing they want to do is feel as if their problem isn’t a big deal to you. The longer you wait to solve it the more unpleasant the customer is going to be. Ensure that the customer's complaint is a major concern of yours and that you are looking for the most beneficial solution. If you are unable to come up with a fast solution, communicate with the customer and let them know that instead of wasting more of their time you can work on resolving the issue and then calling them back with a solution. If you need to involved other employees or departments to resolve the complain let the customer know! 

“Hello, Mr./Mrs. _____! Let’s get this problem resolved for you. I’m going to transfer you to our _____ specialist who is the best-suited person to answer your question.”

Follow Up With Difficult Customers

When presented a tough case that took more resources than on average, don't get frustrated and write them off once the problem is resolved. Reach out and ensure that the solution chosen satisfied the customer. Build a relationship with that customer to gain their loyalty. This makes the customer feel valued at your company! The more you practice following up with a customer the more routine it will become, and it can make all the difference as to whether an angry customer chooses to stay with your company or switch to a competitor. 

“Hey June, this is Rebecca from customer service, I just wanted to follow up to see if you were happy with your replacement TV! Is there anything else that we can do for you?”

Use Your Resources

Employee assistance programs (EAP) that are put in place by your company are great resources for seeking help. Sometimes a case can get out of hand and really ruin your day. It’s okay, no one is perfect, but if you are feeling a bit flustered or if the situation got violent or near-violent you might feel better reaching out for support! It is also a good idea to take a couple of minutes for yourself after a stressful case to decompress before helping the next customer.

Examples of What to Say When Dealing with Angry Customers

Here's is a long list of popular responses when handling angry customers.

  • "I completely understand why you would feel that way ____."
  • "I will work towards resolving [detailed issue at hand] right away!"
  • "It's my pleasure to assist you."
  • "In order to resolve this issue efficiently, I am going to transfer you to [insert department/ name] who is more qualified for this manner."
  • "I appreciate your patience as I work on getting this solved"
  • "Here are the steps I am going to take to get this fixed."
  • " I am happy you help, is there anything else I can assist you with today?"
    • If they respond with "no" let them know how to contact you in the future with any issues.
  • " Thank you for letting us know about [issue at hand]."
  • " I understand this is not what you planned on doing today, we are working to get this resolved as quickly as possible."
  • "Are there any other questions I can answer for you today?"

Looking For More Tips On Handling Difficult Customers?

Looking for more helpful tips on handling angry customers? Check back soon for the release of our 2019 guide for better call center customer service training.

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