Remain Calm During Customer Outbursts

A Reader’s Question:

I understand that angry customers are an inevitable part of customer service work. However, sometimes I take customer outbursts personally. How can I recover from unpleasant encounters quickly and easily?

Response from the Editors:

Customers’ anger usually results from a lack of control to solve their problems, not their dislike of you. At times, customers who feel vulnerable may raise their voices or use rude language. Choose your response wisely and shield your emotions by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Use positive reinforcement. Remind yourself that you are competent. Tell yourself: “I am good at my job. I won’t let a bad experience ruin my confidence.”
  • Limit personal connections. The customer is upset with the situation, not with you. Tell yourself: “The customer doesn’t know me. I just happen to be the sounding board for the anger.”
  • Draw on your confidence. You have handled difficult situations in the past and you will manage this one with the same competence. Tell yourself: “If I remain calm and don’t take the customers’ outburst personally, I can move beyond the heightened emotions and solve the problem.”
  • Recognize the impact of stress. The tensions of everyday life affect everyone. Recognize that angry customers may be influenced by other stressful situations. Action: Move beyond focusing on their anger and consider how you can make them happier.
  • Acknowledge your important role. The customer needs you to solve a problem. Tell yourself: “My organization relies on me to resolve the issue and maintain customers’ satisfaction.”
  • Use calming techniques. Breathe deeply or visualize a favorite place, to break the cycle of negative emotions.

Quote of the Week:

“There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

—Sam Walton

Tip of the Week:

Avert trouble with customers

Don’t wait for customers to call you when their orders are delayed. A phone call from you can prevent customer frustration, build loyalty and provide a cross-sell opportunity.When you call, be sure to include the following components in the conversation:

  • Explain the order’s status and why it’s late.
  • Extend your apologies for any inconvenience.
  • Confirm the customer’s address.
  • Set a new date for delivery.
  • Offer to substitute a similar product that you have available now.

Follow your call with a written note—e-mail if the original order came electronically—confirming the new due date.

—From the editors.

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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!

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