Can you imagine losing a third of your customers in a single day? According to research by professional services firm PwC, that’s exactly what could happen if your customer service falters. Their survey found that 32% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after a single bad experience. That’s not a lot of room for error!
Dealing with an angry customer can be hard, but it’s an inevitable part of doing business. What sets great companies apart is how well they’re able to turn negative customer experiences into positive ones through excellent service. Believe it or not, if you play your cards right, a frustrated customer can become one of your biggest brand advocates.
To make that happen, follow these ten surefire tips for successfully solving the problem and dealing with irate customers.
1. Train for it
Training is everything. You wouldn’t throw a new salesperson out onto the showroom floor without knowledge of your products, or spend a bunch of money on a big advertising campaign without doing some market research first. So why put agents on the front lines without proper training for the situations they’re going to encounter?
Preparation is necessary for success, and customer service is no different. There isn’t a company in the world that hasn’t dealt with an unhappy customer. You can’t please every person 100% of the time, but what you can do is plan for dissatisfied customers and how you’ll respond to them.
Empower customer service agents with training based on real-world scenarios within your line of work. Provide targeted feedback and follow up with one-on-one coaching to continuously improve performance.
You might not think of customer complaints as a good thing, but they can actually be a valuable driver for growth and positive change. When a customer is frustrated, take a step back and try actively listening. Customers, like all people, want to feel heard, so let them air their grievances while remaining calm and without interrupting or attempting to finish their thought.
Upset customers who take the time to contact you are often in the minority—many more will suffer in silence with their frustration simmering until it eventually results in the end of the relationship. So, it’s a good idea to give those who get in touch with you a platform to voice their concerns.
Be sure to have a system in place for capturing complaints when they come in so you can take steps to correct repeat concerns.
3. Reiterate their concerns
After you’ve allowed the customer to vent their frustrations, it’s time to get to the root of the problem.
If it’s still unclear exactly why a customer is upset, use open-ended questions to help them articulate the issue, like “can you help me understand when this problem started?” or “can you describe what you were doing when you ran into the issue?” Dynamic scripting can help agents use the right phrasing at the right time.
When you have a handle on what’s going on, paraphrase their complaint and repeat it back to them with a statement like, “if I understand correctly, you’re upset because of an unexpected increase in your bill.”
Reiterating your customers’ concerns back to them will help them feel heard and ensure you have an accurate grasp on the problem at hand so you can get down to solving it.
4. Stay calm
Perhaps the most important thing you can do when dealing with a frustrated customer is to stay calm and be mindful of body language. If both parties are heated, it’s going to be almost impossible to maintain a productive interaction. It’s a great idea to cover strategies for diffusing tension as part of agents’ training.
In addition to proper training, pairing sentiment analysis with dynamic scripting can help you identify at-risk conversions and provide your support team with the best phrases to use or products and services to recommend with an upset customer in real time, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
5. Arm agents with knowledge
One of the most frustrating aspects of handling angry customers is making them repeat themselves multiple times or provide information you already have. This is only going to escalate the problem and in most cases is totally unnecessary.
Use the information you have about your customer—their name, their suite of products, the age of their account, their call history—to determine the most likely reasons for their call and offer the most relevant service options accordingly. Layering AI on top of your customer data is a great way to proactively troubleshoot problems.
6. Word choice matters
The words agents use can make a big difference in the overall tone of the interaction—responding with “yes, sir,” versus “yeah,” for example. Use scripting to help agents stay on track and pepper service-based phrases into the conversation, like “thank you for your patience” after a pause to input information.
Omit words that can come off as aggressive, like “actually,” and avoid phrasing that places blame on the customer for the issue.
7. Resolve the problem
This is of course priority number one: offer a solution!The most straightforward way to deal with a frustrated customer is to resolve their problem swiftly and effectively.
Don’t give them the runaround through automated phone systems that lead nowhere. Instead, use virtual agents to offer convenient self-service tools with the option to reach a live agent promptly if needed. Employ intelligent call routing to direct calls to the agent best suited to handle the problem from the get-go, minimizing the amount of handoffs required.
8. Know when to hand off
Generally speaking, the fewer handoffs, the better. Sometimes, though, transferring the call to another team member is necessary to resolve the issue, preserve the relationship, or both.
If the call sentiment has escalated, the customer has become verbally abusive or the agent is losing their cool, for example, intervention from a higher-up is a good idea. This is another area where call sentiment analysis is invaluable.
9. Make it right
A sincere apology goes a long way to appease a frustrated customer, but a little something extra goes even further and can help feelings of ill-will fade more quickly. Empower agents to offer discounts or complimentary upgrades at their discretion to help rectify negative experiences.
According to a study by the Carey School of Business, the combination of monetary compensation and an apology together is greater than the sum of its parts. When a company provided monetary relief alone, customers’ satisfaction rate was a mere 37%. Adding an empathetic apology on top of the compensation doubled the satisfaction rate to 74%.
10. Follow up
After dealing with a frustrated customer, don’t just hang up and hope for the best. Check in after the interaction to see that the resolution provided is sufficient and ask for feedback on how the situation was handled. This is a useful opportunity to gather insights that can be used for future agent development and coaching.
When an angry customer contacts you, they’re handing you a prime opportunity to turn the situation around and win a supporter for life. Don’t take it for granted. Use these tips to transform a negative experience into a positive one that customers will remember long after their frustration fades.