Here's How To Handle Abusive Customers And Turn Them Into Happy Ones

Posted by Bradley Chalupski on Nov 13, 2017 8:45:27 AM

4 minute read

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Successfully handling angry customers and turning them into happy ones is where the Customer Service Manager really earns her stripes.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Angry customers are not always the most rational bunch. Even if you are lucky enough (and we use the term loosely) to have a quick fix to a problem, an irate customer might not be in the frame of mind to realize it. And if a customer has a complicated problem that needs solving, the task becomes just that much more difficult. Yet despite these challenges, it remains the responsibility of the Customer Service Manager to ensure that even the most frustrated and irrational of customers comes away happy.

And the stakes here are high. Of course every customer is valuable, and the commitment to their satisfaction is important in and of itself. However, it’s also a big picture reality that angry customers are the most likely to be vocal about your product on social media — sometimes to devastating effect. Therefore, minimizing their frustrations is not just about an individual case; a single failure can have broad consequences.

Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies Customer Service Managers can use to guide themselves in consistently turning angry customers into happy ones.

Remember, This Is Business

This may sound obvious, but it’s very often overlooked. Customer Service Managers must operate in the high-pressure world where the stresses involved can be enough to overwhelm anyone. When faced with an angry customer — possibly even an abusive one — it can be difficult to remember that no matter how frustrating a situation might become, the role of customer support is business, not personal.

Failure to keep this perspective risks interjecting emotional dialogue into the conversation, which in turn can result in erratic service at best and end in someone saying something they shouldn’t at worst. Executing a solid customer service strategy requires the interaction to be approached in in a cool, professional manner.

Bottom line, good Customer Service Managers should constantly remind themselves (and their teams) to not take things personally. Given the personal touch that is the hallmark of many good managers, this may sound like a contradiction in terms. But it’s not. Remember, this is a business transaction; emotions need to be checked at the door.

Which Is Why You Need a Plan

Almost by definition, successful Customer Service Managers tend to be highly empathic. In general, they desire to listen to every complaint they receive and provide a personal touch when finding a solution. However, approaching customer service from a majority emotive standpoint like this makes it nearly impossible to stay professional.

When the professional/personal barrier melts away, the result is often poor service.

Keeping this barrier firm requires the manager to recognize that her department is no different than any other department in a company. The marketing team archetypes customers to better devise plans to serve them; the customer support team should be no different.

One of the best ways to do this is to create objective criteria for what makes an “angry” customer, and then come up with a plan to structure how the department will interact with them. A good start is to direct customer service representatives to collect as many relevant facts about their complaint as possible (the proper way to do this will depend on a company’s individual factors).

This allows the situation to be framed from an objective, factual standpoint — and has the added benefit of making the customer feel they are being listened to. A rational, informed decision about the best way to proceed based on facts and not emotions can then be made.

Fill In The Cracks With Empathy

But wait, didn’t you just say to check emotions at the door? Not entirely. While the big picture structure and plan needs to be calculated with cool rationality, eliminating the Customer Service Manager’s impulse towards empathy entirely is not the solution either.

Customers know when they are being treated as a customer service number. An angry customer that feels as though they are getting a generic solution is all the more likely to react poorly and leave even angrier than when they arrived.

To solve this, make a distinction between the stages of communication, and the style of communication. Stages — such as classifying customer archetypes and methods of collecting facts — should be planned and systematic. However, the style of communication — what is said, who says it, and how often it is said — is where empathy should shine through.

In other words, planning out when to talk so that you can better communicate when you talk will go a long way towards making angry customers feel like they are being listened to and communicated with effectively.

And who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Topics: Support

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