January 19, 2016 | By

Defuse Angry Customers by TREATing them to Red-Carpet Customer Service






By Donna CuttingHelpcenter_Operator_forBlog

It takes a special person to work in a support center dealing with customer complaints day-in and day-out. There is no more stressful job when it comes to serving customers than to be resolving the challenges they bring to the table. As a support center representative, you are tasked with remaining calm and professional as you assist the person on the other end of the line. It’s not always easy, especially when that person is angry and directing their emotional outburst at you. However, the way you handle the situation could be the difference between a bad review and a raving fan.

So, how do you defuse that angry customer so you can get on with the business of helping them? You TREAT them to red-carpet customer service.

  • Tune In and Listen
  • Respond with Empathy and Regret
  • Explore Solutions & Fix the Issue
  • Add a Little Extra
  • Thank the Customer

Tune In and Listen: When the person on the other end of the line is taking their frustration out on you, the normal reaction is to defend yourself, fight back, or even flee by immediately escalating to your supervisor. Instead remind yourself not to take it personally, and train yourself to stay silent and really listen to what the customer is saying. You may feel you’ve heard it all before and you know what they’re going to say.  However, if you take a deep (silent) breath, tune in carefully and let the customer vent, two things will happen:

  1. The customer will be able to voice their frustration, which will help them get it out of their system.
  2. You may hear information that will help you better help them.

At a certain point, they will pause and then you can move on to the next step.

Respond with Empathy and Regret: Once you’ve allowed your customer to vent, it’s time to defuse their anger. You do this by responding with empathy and regret. For instance, say: “I understand how you feel. I would feel the exact same way” or “I can hear the frustration in your voice, and I absolutely understand how you feel.” Then, you express regret. For instance, “I’m so sorry you’re having this experience.”

Understand, you aren’t taking responsibility for something you didn’t do. You’re letting them know that you appreciate their emotions and you regret the situation.

If this was an error on your part or someone in your company’s part, then you must take ownership and apologize for the mistake. Otherwise, expressing sorrow for the situation is the way to go.

Nine times out of ten, these two steps will calm the customer so you can assist them.

Explore Solutions and Fix the Problem: Now you can take care of their complaint. Use confidence-building phrases such as: “I am happy to help you with this issue” or “let me see what I can do to help.”  If you can fix the problem right away, take care of it.

If you need more information or you’re unsure if you can help, say:

“I’m going to do everything within my power to resolve this situation to your satisfaction. May I ask a few clarifying questions so I have more information?”

This lets the customer know that you are willing to help within the scope of your job, and you partner with them to resolve the problem together.

If you are 100% sure that what they’re asking for is mission impossible, explain why and give them other options.

“The reason for that policy is (this). However, what we can do is (this) or (this). Which one of those options suits you best?”

If you still can’t come to a resolution, this is the point you escalate the call to a supervisor or manager.

Add a Little Extra: Once you’ve come to a resolution, take one extra step to impress the customer. It might be as simple as asking, “While I have on you the line, is there anything else I can do for you?”

Better yet, follow up with them the next day to ensure they are happy with the resolution.

Or, if you have the ability to do so, send them a handwritten note or small gift.

However, do not take this step until the complaint has been addressed and a solution has been found. I don’t care about the free desert you give me, if my meal came out cold and wasn’t what I ordered. First, correct my meal, and then add the free desert.

Thank the Customer: What? Thank the customer whose just been yelling at me?

Yes. Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention and giving you the opportunity to help. After all, customers who don’t speak up are, perhaps, more dangerous. They are the ones who sit quietly dissatisfied until they move on to another company. By coming to you, this customer gave you the opportunity to turn it around.

Finally, if you find you are faced with the same issues and complaints repeatedly, report it. Talk with your managers and your team to come up with a permanent solution to the problem. As a member of the support team, you are in a unique position to know exactly what your customers want and what they don’t want.

It’s true that you can’t please everyone and some people will stay mad regardless of what you do. However, often the best service stories start with a complaint and end with raving fan! TREAT upset customers to red carpet customer service and, more often than not, you’ll find those dreaded calls have a happy ending.

About the author: Donna Cutting is the author of two books on red carpet customer service, including the latest 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implement Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers, and Leave a Lasting Impression. She’s an in-demand keynote speaker on the topic, and the Founder & CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems, Inc.






Discuss / Read Comments

  • mwait18 | 3 years, 8 months ago

    “You’re letting them know that you appreciate their emotions…”
    Wow. This wins the golden quote of the day. This one sentence completely opened up my eyes. Personally, I think that the key to great customer service is appreciation. However, I’ve never even stopped to consider how I might do that for a disgruntled customer. All this time I’ve focused on how to show appreciation to new customers, loyal customers, and curious customers alike. Yet, I’ve never thought about how to extend star treatment to the customers that yell at me. But perhaps those are the ones that need the most appreciation shown to them, so they’ll continue to work with you and strengthen your company’s reputation. Additionally, you’ve made me realize that appreciation is just about recognizing material matters per say, but lap recognizing the value of your customer’s emotions. And that can be an incredibly hard thing to do, but it may be the most important thing to show appreciation for. People want to be heard, so showing your customers that you care about how they feel, listening to their needs, and being patient, can have a huge positive impact! Frustrated customers are still customers, and they deserve red carpet treatment. Not only that, but you’ve given some fantastic tips on how to handle those sticky situations. Thank you!

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 8 months ago

      Wow!! Thank you so much for that insightful comment. I’m thrilled to read how the “emotion” quote jumped out at you. I believe that’s why delivering a great customer experience can sometimes be hard – we’re dealing with people’s emotions, and we have emotions of our own too. It’s all about empathy. You also hit the nail on the head. It’s those seemingly cranky people who are in the most need of understanding – and having empathy in those situations can absolutely strengthen your reputation for red carpet customer service! Bravo and thanks for sharing!!

  • joan hammond | 3 years, 8 months ago

    I think Empathy is really important, it shows that you care about the customer well being. I had not thought about the “Little extra[…] and follow up with them” ; that might just be the secret to turn an unsatisfied customer into a mouth to ear marketing reviewer to other customers (friends, families, acquaintances). Thank you Donna.

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 8 months ago

      Joan, Yes!!! This is about genuine caring. You are right -the little extra can be the difference between an unsatisfied customer and a raving fan. However, only after you’ve addressed the initial complaint!

  • Dave Fletcher | 3 years, 8 months ago

    I have to absolutely agree with everything here, I’ve been in this kind of situation many times over the years in all my roles from helpdesk to management and this behavior will defuse the situation. That said on very rare occasions the customer has prepared them self for a fight and hasn’t considered that the person at the other end will be able to help them. A main factor for this is the length of time on hold before reaching a human voice, tinny hold musac and a monotonous recorded voice re-assuring them that the call is important just angries up the blood and prepares them for battle. They then fall in to the trap of not listening to what you’re saying to them and their rage increases with your politeness, not impossible to win over from this point but a far harder task! In most cases here they will only take the option of immediate escalation to a superior.

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 1 month ago

      Dave, Absolutely! There is nothing more frustrating than hearing a recorded voice say “your call is important” over and over again, and not being able to reach a live person on the phone!

  • Sean Hunt | 3 years, 7 months ago

    It would be incorrect to say For instance, say: “I understand how you feel” becuase you dont… This will only irate them more. Then follow up with a “I can hear the frustration in your voice”… This will send them to oblivion.

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 1 month ago

      You are so right Sean! If I were to edit that now, I might say “I understand how you MUST feel” or “I can understand why this situation might frustrate you.” Good point!

  • timothy muddu | 3 years, 6 months ago

    it was touching thanks for the article

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 1 month ago

      Thanks Timothy!

  • Paula Pilsner | 3 years, 5 months ago

    I just dealt with customer service at Computer Technician Inc. Of the 3 people I spoke to none were polite. If I couldn’t understand them they became very impatient. Wish your company could offer a course in being a good customer service

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 1 month ago

      Paula, Isn’t that frustrating! We do actually teach those courses. Feel free to send them to 🙂 Hope you get better service going forward.

  • Marc Shaffer | 3 years, 4 months ago

    If everyone thought like you and I there would be a lot fewer people unhappy with tech support or customer service. So many people have lost sight of the fact that the Customer is king. Sad thing is, they lose! We have built our business on the premise that the Client always comes first. This has provided us with one of the lowest Client attrition rates in the industry. And, is why we climbed to #13 in the list of the top 100 BDR providers in the industry based on customer support and satisfaction. Keep it up guys, love the post. -Marc @usdv_mhs.

    • Donna Cutting | 3 years, 1 month ago

      Marc, Thanks for your kind words and congratulations on your success. There is no doubt in my mind that a red carpet customer experience is your best sales tool.

  • lisa rose | 3 years, 1 month ago

    Very good and nice information…you blog…

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