Using Customer Service to Appease Angry Customers

“When you depersonalize abrasive behaviour and see it as a call for help you become a catalyst for the best kind of change.” – Marilyn Suttle

All angry customers are dissatisfied customers, but a customer who is dissatisfied is not necessarily angry! It is important to know the difference between pleasing a customer who is dissatisfied and using customer service to appease angry customers. The common factor between both is that your company has done something to upset them. So what is the difference between these two kinds of customers?

A customer who is dissatisfied is one who on a particular instance feels that your product or service has failed to meet the mark or level of expectation. Slow service at a restaurant or a cold dish served up is instances that would make a customer reach a level of dissatisfaction. The emotion is not very strong and such a customer would leave the restaurant and not return. However, such customers have the potential of damaging your business to some extent as they would probably tell their friends and family about their experience. This could result in some lost potential business without the restaurant owner not evening knowing it.

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Angry customers are the much more potent threat to your business. An angry customer is convinced that you are out to cheat him or her and have gone against the normal code of business ethics. These customers may turn vicious and resort to using the biggest platform – social media – to speak about your poor business dealings. For example if you are withdrawing money from an ATM and the cash is not dispensed but your account gets debited you would expect a refund. However, when that does not happen and you need to make several phone calls and numerous personal visits to the bank, you will most certainly close your account with the bank and also make your unpleasant experiences known. Anger is a very strong emotion and customers that are seething with this emotion are most likely to get vengeful in some manner or another. Angry customers are the worst setback for your business. Why not just be prudent and use customer service to appease angry customers and save yourself from being hit with an impact harder than a wrecking ball.

Managing customer expectations and growing demands is challenging enough. Imagine having to manage the strong negative emotions of anger of even a few! Angry customers, however you interact with them, will leave you feeling tired, miserable and defeated. They are ticking bombs of frustration, aggression and impatience that are ready to blow you out of business. The only initial way to dealing with a vexed customer is to remain calm and listen attentively. Let them vent everything they have to say before you speak. However, remember that you must not have to put up with abusive language and will be in your rights to disconnect the call after conveying so to your customer. As a customer service representative you know that the customer is angry at the business and probably has nothing personal against you. Under no circumstance, however, is it acceptable for you as a company to shout back or be rude to the customer. Also ensure that no other negative emotions are at play either – sarcasm or feigned courtesy are easily noticeable. The problem will only get escalated beyond repair.

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It would be ideal if your customer service is able to manage a negative situation pro-actively and so prevent the customer from reaching the highly charged state of anger. Ascertain the reasons and track records for any possible patterns in your service that is leading to these reactions. Is it possible that there are other customers sitting on the fence about a similar issue faced by them and are waiting to complain if someone else does too? Your customer service must not only be trained to react to angry customers, but must also be trained to understand and thwart the reasons leading to anger. The customer, who does get angry, would initially want someone from the company to direct his or her anger on. As the customer service representative, it would be your duty to use all your skills of customer service to appease this angry customer. Be attentive to everything being said and do not interrupt. Only when the customer seems to pause long enough politely repeat your understanding of the issue and ask if you have grasped it properly. Apologize profusely with unfeigned politeness. It will only anger the customer to be faced with an agent whose apology and statements appear rote. If a solution or solutions are immediately possible, offer them. Else inform the customer that the problem is unique and would require time to resolve – ensure that a timeline is provided. The angry customer may have cooled off a bit but probably not enough to be assured by promises of later. You would need to use all your skills of customer service to make him or her believe you. DO NOT FORGET to revert with the solution as promised well within the timeline. Inform your supervisor and have a gift or complementary product delivered to this customer accompanied with a hand written apology note from someone at a senior level.

There is no limit that can be placed on the level of service that will please customers. However, as a company it would be safe to say that constant monitoring of feedback and instances of customer anger would help limit these instances to the minimum. Your customer service team must be equipped with the latest technology, up to date training and coaching so that they do not contribute towards creating angry customers and are also ready to deal with them. A larger number of potential disasters can be averted just by constantly upgrading levels of customer service.

Another way to keep customer anger at bay is to monitor records of refunds and replacements. Has your company been involved in this activity extensively? This would tell you that you’re your company will reach a point where a replacement or refund will not work to appease customers. You will have angry and vengeful customers and would have to spend a great deal of resources in trying to keep them with you and also from spreading the word about their sordid experience.

Remain positive. Remain calm. Remain focused on the issue at hand. Responding fast and efficiently with solutions is the best way to appease angry customers. If they are made to wait even for the solution, their anger will be uncontrollable. Speak softly and keep your tone of voice mild when communicating with an angry customer. This helps to dissipate some of the tension and puts you more in control of the situation. When the customer is able to perceive that you are genuinely interested in his or her problem, you will find it much easier to put your point across. Remember the importance of empathy especially with irate customers – no one really likes to be angry. In this case, it is because of your company’s fault that your customer is uncomfortable and in a state of mind that is not normal for him or her. When you cross all limits of customer service to put a smile back on the customer’s lips, he or she will not only thank you but also speak well of you individually, your team and your company as a whole. A company’s success lies with its customers and you can make a great contribution by exceeding customer expectations every single time.

It is not humanly possible to remain angry for too long and so practising patience and having a calm disposition will help you to keep your customers from getting angry and also being able to soothe the frayed nerves of a customer in case things do go wrong. Humility is a great partner for serenity – use both to appease angry customers.

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