Anger Management: Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations
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Anger Management: Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations

Anger Management: Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations

It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it.

Facing off with a screaming, unreasonable, irrational customer represents the ultimate test of any employee's service skills. It can take you to your breaking point if you are not aware and careful. Staying grounded and above the fray requires you to find inner strength, and persevere beyond the initial difficulties.

With many employees a screaming irate customer will ruin their day. It's hard to keep motivated when 20 minutes into your shift a customer lets you have it. The bad news is most employees have never been trained to successfully handle these customers. Their ego gets in the way. They call management for support. In some call centers the employee just hangs up thinking no one will know. Many find it easier to lie to make the problem go away.

There are several reasons why it's critical the problem gets solved fast.

  1. Many customers will never come back. The problem here is many employees think, 'Great! He was a jerk. We don't need him.'
  2. With social media thousands can hear about the problem in hours. The average person has 130 friends on Facebook.
  3. Many times the problem was caused by your organization. We all have a limited number of customers and we all make mistakes.
  4. Problem customers can increase employee turnover. Some employees think, 'This is a lousy job. This place has some really bad customers. I am out of here.'
  5. It can crush morale and attitudes. Not many employees are skilled at turning around irate customers and difficult situations.

We teach the '4 C's of Handling Irate Customers.' We explore the importance of staying calm and controlled - in every situation - preventing it from spiraling out of control. There's no one thing that pushes a customer over the edge. It's all about:

  • Compassion - Listen carefully and react to their words, not just their behavior. Examine the facts.
  • Calm - Remain calm and don't lose your cool.
  • Confidence - Handle the situation knowing you are following company guidelines - and serve the customer.
  • Competence - Save the customer with your competent handling of the situation so he or she continues to be a customer.

Dealing with irate customers can drain you physically and emotionally, and put your skills to the test. After you have had to deal with a customer's outburst, you must find ways to take care of yourself. Difficult situations can leave you feeling empty so use positive self-talk. There are '6 Steps to Handle Irate Customers' (Use these six steps in any order, based on the situation)

  1. Listen carefully and with interest.
  2. Put yourself in your customer's place.
  3. Ask questions and actively listen to the answers.
  4. Suggest alternatives that address their concerns.
  5. Apologize without laying blame for it might not be your fault.
  6. Solve the problem quickly and efficiently.

John Tschohl is an author and president of Service Quality Institute. He is an American business consultant and customer service strategist.

Published: August 14th, 2014

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