Customer Experience News & Trends

7 phrases that defuse irate customers

Some customers behave worse than a toddler having a tantrum — and a time-out is not the way to deal with them.

Instead, front-line customer service pros need to take a hard-nose, soft-touch approach to dealing with customers’ unacceptable behavior.

It’s a real need, too, considering more than 35% of Americans admitted that they have yelled at customer service agents in the past year. That’s up from 25% in the previous year, according to a Customer Care and Measurement Consulting survey.

Hard-nose, soft-touch approach

So how can customer service pros best deal with this kind of behavior? Renowned customer loyalty expert Myra Golden suggests reps take these steps to stop customers when they become irate, irrational and/or abusive:

  1. State the facts. Restate any fact customers have given and ignore emotions in a volatile situation.
  2. Interpret the facts, giving customers the benefit of the doubt. For instance, “You expected your order to arrive yesterday, and you’re upset that it’s two days later and it’s still not in your hands.”
  3. State your feelings. This way, they’ll realize that their out-of-control emotions are having a negative effect on others. Say, “When you interrupt me and scream, it frustrates me because I can’t focus on the solution.”
  4. Validate the relationships. This helps avoid escalating the situation. If you say something like, “I value your relationship with me and our company, so I want to come to a solution quickly.”
  5. Gain understanding. Now’s when you point out unacceptable behavior — anything from screaming and swearing to belittling and constant interrupting. Say, “So please help me understand why you’re cursing at me.”
  6. Request a change. Whether they have a response or reason or not, you can say, “Then would you please stop cursing at me so we can get this resolved?”
  7. Get agreement. Move in the right direction with an agreement statement like this, “This will help us come to a resolution must faster. What do you think of that?”

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