Most people are polite, but even the best of us become flustered or downright angry when we encounter bad service or defective products. We’ve all been that customer who calls support or goes to the store in person to “unload.”
What about when you’re on the receiving end of these tirades?
If you go into business, such exchanges are inevitable. Whether it’s over the phone, via chat or face to face, you need to be prepared in how to deal with unpleasant customers.
Here are five tips to help you weather these storms.
1. Remain Calm
Easier said than done, right? How can you maintain composure when someone is screaming at you?
Yet, getting angry in response will almost never improve matters. In fact, it will only escalate the situation — making it worse for all parties involved.
The most important tip is to stay as calm as possible. It helps to remember that the yelling usually isn’t personal. The customer you’re dealing with has a concern (legitimate or not). This individual is simply dumping his or her frustration on you — the company’s representative.
2. Listen and Reiterate
Before fixing a problem, you must be able to define it first. This is where listening is key.
As the angry customer is explaining the issue to you, let him or her finish — without interruption. Unloading can be cathartic. By hearing the other side, you can help relieve some of the customer’s tension and frustration.
It’s also a good idea to acknowledge and reiterate the customer’s concerns so that he or she knows you understand the situation. In your words, try to restate the problem as the customer sees it. Doing so can help build empathy and trust.
3. Resolve the Issue ASAP
Every angry exchange is different. In most cases, the underlying problem is easily resolvable — whether you offer:
- A sincere apology
- A no-hassle refund
- Free benefits and perks
If you have the latitude to provide these solutions, simply do it. If you don’t feel that you have the authority — call a supervisor who does.
4. Fire Bad Customers
There will always be some clients who can never be satisfied — no matter what you do. They’re not interested in resolutions or apologies. They’re not even swayed by freebies.
Customers in this category are driven by pure drama. They derive satisfaction from belittling others or causing a scene.
Whether as a business owner or employee, you have the right to refuse service to rude customers. It’s OK to “fire” them.
In fact, this is often the best possible move, since rude customers consume a disproportionate number of resources. Every second you spend bending backward for them is time taken away from servicing the needs of loyal customers who will buy from you consistently.
5. Protect Your Online Rep
Nasty exchanges between customers and support teams are nothing new. However, in the Internet age, there’s now another layer with which businesses must contend.
Negative experiences can now be posted online for all to see. These bad reviews live in perpetuity, which means last year’s dissatisfied customers can continue wreaking havoc on your business for decades to come.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to monitor your online reputation using a range of tools (free and paid). When necessary, you can intervene by:
- Reaching out to that dissatisfied customer to hopefully resolve the issue
- Having the negative reviews removed if you can prove they’re unwarranted
- Publishing a thoughtful response to that review to provide some balance
One Final Tip for Dealing With Negative, Rude Customers
As consumer expectations continue to rise, the frequency and severity of “customer rudeness” will also increase.
Again — dealing with this is simply the cost of doing business.
With proper employee training, however, your teams can hopefully navigate this shifting landscape with poise. For example, you can use role-playing exercises in which everyone has a chance to practice:
- Escalating situations (as a customer)
- Diffusing situations (as a support rep)
Because you know that negative exchanges are always just around the corner, preparing for them is your best strategy. The more you practice giving excellent customer support, the better that support will become.