When you are part of the client-facing teams of a company, it is important to acknowledge when a customer is being difficult or becoming frustrated. Before everyone was working remotely, it was a lot easier to see the customer’s actual body language and facial expressions. Now more than ever, employees are interacting with customers virtually or over the phone which makes it a little trickier to spot key indicators. 

Over the course of my 21 year career, I have put together some steps to take to learn how to deal with your customers when they are frustrated and/or being difficult. 

  1. Empathy goes a long way. Customers can easily be calmed by one simple gesture of showing them empathy by listening to and understanding their issue. Showing empathy does not mean they are right, but it helps to reassure them that you care and will take the necessary steps to resolve the issue. 
  2. Don’t get emotional. Customers always seem to know how to push the right button to get underneath the representative’s skin, it’s a testament as old as time. When you find yourself in the middle of a tense conversation, make sure to keep your tone calm and soothing, address them by their name so they understand you are just a person like them trying to solve their problem, and don’t take it personally. If the customer begins to become vulgar, follow your company’s guidelines to end the conversation. 
  3. Know when to tag your manager in. It is important to know when to involve your manager. It would be an even better skill if you knew when to involve the manager before the customer requests to speak to the manager. By the time the customer asks to speak with a manager, it is usually already too late. Representatives should be trained to a certain extent, but once the representative is not successful in managing the situation then a manager should be involved. 
  4. Apologizing appropriately. Sometimes companies make mistakes and sometimes the “face” of the company has to handle those situations and possibly apologize. There are times when the customer has created a problem on their own and an apology is not needed, but it is up to you to let the customer know the company will do what it can to help resolve their problem. 

Angry customers should be treated as an opportunity to learn what areas of the company, and within the service and sales departments, require improvements. Your response to a customer’s frustration (justified or not) makes the difference between a satisfied customer and one who leaves your company for your competitors. Knowing how to take advantage of this type of situation is a sign of a company’s maturity that customers tend to respect and value.

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