It can be best of jobs, it can be the worst of jobs. While talking to customers can be fun, for most support agents, life is long stretches of time spent answering the questions over and over (and over) again; stretches long enough to suck the enthusiasm out of even the most liveliest of support reps.
And then there are the angry calls and frustrated emails – conversations that have to be handled masterfully to make sure that all parties exit with a smile on their face. How you respond is the difference between a customer who is satisfied with the resolution and a customer who vows to never darken your doorstep ever again.
So, here are a few tips for coping with a tense situation and resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction. If a Slideshare is more your game, we got your back.
#1: Don’t take it personally. Keep calm and breathe.
The oldest tip of them all: Don’t take it personally.
Just remember that a thousand and one things led to this outburst – most of which probably don’t have anything to do with you. You’re just the catalyst to their bad day which has become so much worse.
When you have an angry customer sputtering down the phone at you, take a deep breath and relax. Don’t take it personally. Just let the customer get to the end of his rant before you jump in and try to smooth things over. Understand that the customer just wants to be heard; they didn’t wake up and decide to have a bad day or to make your day worse.
They just want to know that someone is listening to them, paying attention to their problem. They just want to know that someone cares.
So, take a deep breath and be that someone for them. Let them get it all out. This will give you enough time to come up with a good solution and a brilliant way to communicate said solution.
#2 “And how did that make you feel?”: Listen; don’t just hear them out.
Take notes. Write down everything they say (leave out the profanity). If a customer keeps coming back to a certain point, make sure you note that down as well.
Ask them relevant, standard questions but be careful of your phrasing. You don’t want to make it seem like the customer is at fault. There’s a world of difference between “Tell me what happened” and “So, what went wrong?”.
#3 Empathy over sympathy, every day
Once you’ve gone over the events, sum up everything they’ve told you – your notes should come in handy now. This will show them that you’ve understood the problem, that you weren’t just pretending to listen and that you’ve understood it from their perspective.
However, you should be careful to avoid seeming like you’re mocking them by reading out what they said word for word. Summarize, don’t repeat.
Once you’re done summing up the situation, take a moment to apologize. Defuse the situation by being as un-bureaucratic as possible. Sentences like “We’re sorry to hear that you have this problem” will only make the situation worse. So, throw out the “We” in favor of the more empathetic “I”.
You understand, you’re sorry, you’ll get onto it right away, you’ll solve their problem. In short, take ownership of the problem. Also stay away from phrases like “Is there anything else?” and “Is that it?”. We’d recommend far more milder phrases like, “Is there anything else that I’ve missed out?”.
#4 Time for the Solution
You have a solution.
Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for the customer’s problem. Phew. Disaster averted. Tell them you’re on it and get on it. Make everything happen at the speed of light. If it looks like there’ll be a delay (it’ll take a couple of hours or so), inform them about it and then over-deliver.
In most cases, speedy resolutions are nice. In this situation, it’s a necessity.
There is no immediate solution.
Every support rep’s worst nightmare: An angry customer and no solution in sight. You don’t have ETA for when the solution will be available either.
How do you go about explaining this to the customer?
We’d suggest that you start off by apologizing for the inconvenience caused. Offer them a workaround. If they’re unappeased, throw in a discount/a freebie. Tell them you’ll get in touch with them the minute the feature goes out. Keep your promise.
#5 Follow up
Regardless of the channel the customer used to get in touch with you, follow up with them after your conversation through email after a day or two. Don’t leave them stewing with the memory of your last interaction.
We’d recommend an email like the one down below:
Hope you’re doing well.
Please let me know if X troubles you again. I’d be glad to jump on a call and help you sort it out.
If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to help. Have a fantastic day!
Root cause analysis
The next time an angry customer looks you up, put on your deerstalker hat and think. The customer is angry, yes, but why? Did your copy not convey the point properly? Were your sales people misinformed? Is there a problem with inventory? Trace the problem to its root and fix it before it annoys the rest of your customer base.
As Bill Gates put it, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. So, get a move on and fix it before it frustrates another one of your customers to a point of no return.
If we’ve missed out on something fairly obvious, drop us a line in the comments down below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be rewarded handsomely.