Seeing Red?: How To Deal With Angry Customers

Is dealing with customers a regular part of your job? Perhaps you interact with them face-to-face, or maybe you speak to them on the phone. Either way, if you do deal with customers, chances are that at least once in a while you’ll be faced with an angry one. And if you work in a busy shop or call centre, coping with irate customers could be a daily occurrence.

It’s important to have a strategy for dealing with customers who are upset. Otherwise their emotions can easily rub off on you, leaving you feeling wound up and stressed. If left unchecked this will cause your physical and emotional health to suffer.

Of course, when your job requires you to talk to customers, simply walking away from an angry person probably isn’t an option. Some workplaces offer special training to help you deal with challenging customers but if yours doesn’t, there are a range of strategies you can try to help ease the tension.

Don’t take it personally – when a disgruntled customer makes a complaint, it’s easy to feel like they are attacking you directly but remember, they don’t actually know you and their issue is with your company, not with you.

Don’t retaliate – resist the temptation to argue back. Usually, this will only make the situation worse. Take a deep breath, keep calm and listen to what they have to say. Remember, you have nothing to gain by arguing, so even if you think the customer is in the wrong it’s best not to say so. In a lot of instances, customers just want to get something off their chest and by simply listening without interrupting you can help them calm down.

See things from their point of view – when people are upset or angry, there’s usually a reason. Try to empathise and understand why they are unhappy. Even if you feel that the customer is in the wrong, you can say things like “I can understand why you are upset” or “I’m sorry that you feel this way” without giving in to unreasonable demands.

Take time to relax – it’s important to have a range of strategies that you can call upon to help you de-stress. This could be as simple as taking a five-minute walk after a difficult phone call, or taking up a hobby such as yoga to help you de-stress at the end of the day.

Know your limits – it’s important to know what your company’s policy is on dealing with difficult customers. In some cases you may be within your rights to hang up or walk away from a customer – for example if they use threatening language. And if you can’t resolve a customer’s complaint, you may need to refer them to your supervisor.

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