July 7, 2014 | By

4 Dos and Don’ts of Handling Tough Customer Service Situations

If you work in customer service, chances are you’ve had “that” customer. The one who was angry, rude, demanding or even intimidating. Most of the time, such situations escalate because both you and the customer react defensively – one out of fear and one out of frustration – even if you both have good intentions.

Anthony Lee / OJO Images
Anthony Lee / OJO Images via GettyImages

But for a mighty customer contact professional, those truly tough situations can teach a valuable lesson: great service starts with confidence and competence. With these two things, any situation can have a positive outcome.

So how exactly do you put the breaks on a call headed in the wrong direction? Here are four dos and don’ts for defusing even the toughest customer situations.

  1. Do lean in to criticisms. While you aren’t the reason customers are upset, you are the one who can make them feel unheard. Don’t be scared when they are angry; let them know you get it! Mirror their emotions and show that you’re on their side.
  1. Don’t use automatic-sounding responses. The last thing you want to hear when you’re upset is a canned “I understand.” Instead of using catchphrases with customers, try these four steps: paraphrase their complaint back to them, observe what the customer is feeling, tell them they have a right to those feelings and then finally start solving problems by putting yourself in their shoes.
  1. Don’t just dump bad news in a customers lap. Break the news down into stages. Start with a good introduction before moving into a proactive summary with enough details to keep an open dialogue. And finally, respond to every single concern empathetically.
  1. Do be immune to intimidation. Some customers will try to grind at you until they get what they want, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in. Use techniques like “fogging” to give credibility to complaints while sticking to your boundaries, and underreact to threats to keep the control in your court during the call.

Did we miss anything? How do you defuse tough customer situations?

Discuss / Read Comments

  • Veronica Puailoa | 5 years, 2 months ago

    Hi Shaun – so glad you enjoy the blog! Just click the “follow” button on the home page and you’ll start to receive emails whenever there is a new post.

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