WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS

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Facilitator’s Guide

Customer Service Training Guide

WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS

October 2008

WORKING

WITH

ANGRY CUSTOMERS
Experienced Customer Account Specialists in the

Target Audience: Length:

Water Bureau‟s Service Center and Call Center Two hours Up to 20 per class

Recommended Class Size: Training Materials:
 Participant handouts a) Learning Objectives b) What Makes People Angry c) Step-by-Step Approach for De-Escalating Anger d) Things that Can Make Matters Worse e) Methods that Make a Huge Flipchart (Things that Really Help) Post-It pads Attendance sheet

f) g) h) i) j)

Difference Strategies for the Call Center and Service Center Case Problems Your Success Story Summary Card Course Feedback

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Learning Objectives:

After completing this training module, Customer

Account Specialists will be able to… 1. Recognize situations that can cause frustration for customers, and seek ways to minimize the issues. 2. Avoid using words and behaviors that contribute to stressful situations. 3. Use techniques to help defuse emotions, and take control of the customer interaction in order to achieve a positive outcome. 4. Recognize how our own beliefs and expectations can add stress to working with upset or angry customers.

WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS

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Course Outline:
I. Introduction a. Opening b. How angry customer situations can make you feel c. How most people respond d. What happens if dealt with effectively e. “Working with” vs. “handling” f. What we‟ll cover today g. Flipchart: “Things that Really Help” What Makes Customers Angry a. Our own experience as customers b. What makes people angry (general) c. Specific things that may upset Water Bureau customers A Step-by-Step Process for De-Escalating Anger a. Four positive steps b. Overall benefit Things that Can Make Matters Worse a. Not listening b. Excuses c. Defensiveness d. Quoting policy e. Jargon, abbreviations f. Words to avoid g. Rudeness and sarcasm Methods that Make a Huge Difference a. Apologize b. Soothe c. Listen d. Assure you can help e. f. g. h. VI. Set stage for taking control Two tips for taking control How to give bad news Flipchart: “Things that Really Help”

Specific Situations You May Encounter a. First, some good news! b. Threats c. Insults, yelling, swearing d. When to get help e. About hanging up Call Center and Service Center-Specific Issues a. Strategies for the Call Center and Service Center b. Service Center c. Call Center Case Problems a. Assign problems b. Read out Noting the Customer Record a. What to include in Memo b. What NOT to include Stress Management Tips and Techniques a. Our own expectations b. Stress management techniques Success Stories a. Your best story b. Lessons Conclusion a. Recovery b. Future interactions c. Review flipchart d. Summary cards e. Closing

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VII.

VIII.

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XI.

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XII.

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we attended “Managing Difficult Customers. In some ways. to work more effectively with irate customers. don‟t escalate with the customer. In some ways.” by definition. In July 2008. irate. different: “Upset for a Reason.” Discussed several types of difficult customers—     Psychologically Challenged Chemically Impaired Upset for a Reason Angry at the World Today we‟ll drill deeper into how to work with upset and angry customers.INTRODUCTION Opening Welcome & introductions. take control.” All of these recommendations are correct. because have the potential to upset you. has a reason. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. both are similar: Can be emotional. Both upset and angry customers can be hard to work with. impact your own emotions. Page 4 of 31 . in many cases. MDC course made some valid recommendations about what needs to happen in an irate customer situation: “Defuse. ruin your day. which we can work to identify and resolve. But how do you do these things? What techniques work and what makes matters worse? In this course you‟ll learn some tools and skills that will help you.

Feeling intimidated: Overly apologetic. dread coming into work the next day. or longer Wiped out. when you‟ve had these kinds of interactions. we‟re exposed to a wide variety of people and personalities. While we‟re required to be professional and courteous. Page 5 of 31 . In your experience.How angry customer situations can make you feel Working with an upset or angry customer can be one of the hardest. letting customer take over the interaction. Escaping: Trying to end (or refer) the conversation as fast as possible to make the customer go away. In some organizations. hours. some customers‟ behavior can be downright hostile and abusive. interrupting. Since we provide water services for all citizens of the city. most stressful parts of your job. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. How most people respond Common (negative) reactions of service providers:    Getting angry back: Raising voice. speaking disrespectfully. how has it made you feel?        Upset. exhausted Physical signs may be faster breathing. stressed for a few minutes. leads to increased absenteeism and turnover. tense feeling in stomach Feel a lack of control Takes the fun out of the job Feel a loss of confidence in your ability to do your job In extreme cases: may feel disgusted.

Feels like you‟re listening to them. Increased customer satisfaction. Improves morale among customer service team. What we want to do is work together. and there are no simple answers. Can help retain good customer service reps. no recipe or formula you can follow in every case. Feel good. Less likely to tell their friends and family about their negative experience (negative stories often get exaggerated). lots of benefits: For Customer: Can decrease or eliminate anger. feel confident. Sounds like we consider the customer a nuisance that has to be dealt with. More job satisfaction. Have to read situations and use judgment to decide how to respond.) What we’ll cover today Bad News: Working with angry customers is almost always difficult. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Will also learn some things about ourselves—how we react. You become more valuable to the Water Bureau. Less likely to follow through on threats to notify media or mayor or commissioner‟s office. which we can learn and use. and work as partners to solve issues or concerns together.What happens if dealt with effectively If we work with the customer effectively. Avoids lawsuits and bad publicity. Page 6 of 31 . For Water Bureau: Increases customer goodwill. Feel like you can help others. Likely to have positive interactions with that customer in the future. that will help in 90% of situations. how our own expectations can set ourselves up for disappointment—and some methods for managing stressful situations. Good News: There are some skills and techniques. What is the difference? (Handling implies we‟re trying to dominate. “Working with” vs. “handling” We named this course “Working with Angry Customers” instead of handling angry customers. For You: Less stress.

Assign each group one of the situations. rude waiter or apathetic salesperson. Most of the time. but it helps to realize that they‟re human. If you hear a technique today that you really like. And humans can have bad days and can be on their worst behavior. Have groups read out how they would handle the situation. you can relate to the feelings our customers might have. What makes people angry (general) Lots of things can make a customer angry. The following table shows both the situations and some recommended methods. write it on a Post-It note and post it on the flipchart. We have a flipchart for those techniques that help you the most.] WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. in each of the following situations? [Refer to handout. Maybe a long line. WHAT MAKES CUSTOMERS ANGRY Our own experience as customers One of the best ways to deal with angry customer situations is before they happen— Think about how you feel when you’re a customer and something has upset or frustrated you. the customer will be pretty vocal about letting you know what‟s upsetting them. It‟s not excusable for a customer to harass you. What would you do to help manage. We need to pay attention and respond based on what is upsetting them. We‟ll save time at the end of class to go over your favorite techniques. Page 7 of 31 . or if you have a favorite technique that we didn‟t discuss in class. If you can remember how you felt in those situations.Flipchart: “Things that Really Help” You probably have some good techniques that help you when you work with an angry customer. Have participants work in groups of four.

and make sure any follow up actions are arranged correctly. Check facts to make sure your information is accurate. Be sure to be honest about what you can (or cannot) do for the customer. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008.1. Customer is frustrated by a lack of information. Customer is having personal problems or just having a bad day. they don‟t understand something or think we‟re trying to take advantage of them. Customer perceives we didn’t do what we said we would do. Keep explanations brief. briefly explain how long transaction will take. Provide clear. Apologize. 3. Customer has gotten “the runaround” or has gotten conflicting stories.      Apologize. concise explanations. 5. Customer is in a rush and system is running slow. Provide clear explanations. Apologize. Indicate you‟re glad customer has brought the matter to your attention. go out of your way to be helpful.     4. so that we keep the commitments we make to the customer. 2. Page 8 of 31 . Be positive and indicate that you can help. listen.      Show empathy. Might be on lunch hour or parked at a meter that‟s about to expire. Show appreciation that customer came in (or called). Assure customer you realize they‟re pressed for time and that you‟ll help as quickly as you can. Focus on business. don‟t chitchat with customer or other people.

Some things that Bureau customers can happen:          Customer receives Final Notice card Water is shut off Customer perceives there is an error on bill Perceives bill as too high Payment not posted.Specific things that Certain events are upsetting by definition and have the may upset Water potential to make a customer angry. or posted as wrong amount Cannot pay (embarrassment. Page 9 of 31 . frustration and worry can convert into anger) Customer is denied opportunity to make another payment arrangement Customer‟s car was towed for covering meter Other situations you‟ve experienced? What do all of these situations have in common? What does the customer want? WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008.

Listen and encourage them to talk without interrupting. Enables you to get more information. is that correct?” (Benefit: Shows customer you listened and that you understand the issue. Gives customer chance to clarify. recap and ask for confirmation: “As I understand it. Positions you as the one controlling the interaction. (Benefit: Shows you‟re not rushing them. (Benefit: Begins the rapport.) STEP 3: Ask if there is anything else they wanted to add.”] STEP 1: Let the customer vent. The customer is more inclined to work with you as a partner to solve the problem. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. “Step-by-Step Process for De-Escalating Anger. Use words like “I see. not adversarial.” Don‟t try to cut them off. and have participants complete the “Benefits” column of their handout.” or “Go ahead. You now thoroughly understand the situation and the customer‟s viewpoint.A STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS FOR DE-ESCALATING ANGER Four positive steps [Review the following. Page 10 of 31 . because…    You‟ve bought time to think about causes of problems and possible solutions. (Benefit: Mutual striving to solve the problem.) STEP 2: When the customer pauses (you‟ll hear a break or a change in tone). your concern is XYZ.) STEP 4: Begin to problem solve together with the customer.) Overall benefit It‟s natural to want to rush through a transaction with an irate customer so you can get it over with. Later on. we‟ll talk about some techniques that will help you steer the conversation so that the venting won‟t go on forever. shows that you respect the customer. Using this four-step process may take extra time. But it will enable you to help the customer better.

Makes them think we won’t help them.THINGS THAT CAN MAKE MATTERS WORSE Not listening Think about how you feel when you‟re telling someone about a problem and they seem to be not listening. But this customer may have some new. If we cut them off. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. additional facts. may miss some relevant information. they look bored. May have already heard about the same problem from several other customers today.) Paraphrasing what the customer said so they can confirm your understanding. And we‟ll make the customer mad! Listening will make the customer feel valued and help you get all the information you need. They interrupt.” (And in Service Center: nodding and making eye contact. Page 11 of 31 . So we try to save time and aggravation by “gently” pushing the customer to get to the point. We may have a good reason to not listen. Encouraging person to continue by saying things like “I see” and “Yes. Even a polite customer can be pushed into anger when they feel they‟re not being heard. Makes them feel disrespected. you get the impression they‟re paying attention to something else. Good listening includes:    Not interrupting.

the customer perceives it as being argumentative on your part. and you want to explain the reason to the customer. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. But to the customer. so you won‟t come across as defensive. defending doesn‟t help solve the problem. “Let me see what I can do to help you…” or “May I have the address so I can look at the account?” Defensiveness It‟s natural to try to explain why you think we‟re right and the customer is wrong—especially when you‟re sure you are right! Unfortunately. For example. Exhale quietly through your mouth.Excuses Suppose a customer calls about an error on a bill. Will give you a moment to regain your composure. Page 12 of 31 . it is an error. Use action-oriented words that suggest you‟re going to help. A better technique is to get right to problem solving. and focus on something (breathing) other than the fact that you feel attacked. think about what you want to say. Easier said than done when someone is yelling at you? A good technique to try: Take a deep breath. Customers perceive that as us saying we‟re not going to help. and it doesn‟t help set the stage for partnering. even if you‟re right. You know why the error occurred. Important to continue using a calm tone of voice (not condescending) when you explain things. It comes across as stubborn or confrontational. it sounds like we‟re making excuses. In most cases. Let‟s say the customer is right.

What are some of the terms we use that would be unfamiliar to most customers? (One example: LINC) What might we say instead when we talk to a customer? (Instead of LINC. avoid using the words “they” and “their” to refer to the city or Water Bureau. avoid words like “policy” or “regulations. Sounds like you consider yourself part of the team. Page 13 of 31 .” (“We‟ll be able to keep your water on if you‟ll make a payment of $120 by Tuesday. abbreviations A related problem is using technical terms and acronyms when explaining something to the customer.Quoting policy Toward the beginning of the customer interaction. and confusion can turn into anger. What would be a more positive way to say the following when making payment arrangements with a customer? “They’re going to cut your water off if you don’t pay them $120 by Tuesday. laws or practices. A better way to refer to the city/bureau is “we. but the customer gets confused. It implies you disagree with the policy.” Words like “we” and “our” sound more positive. then get right to actions and problem solving. Using those words sounds like you are separate from the city/bureau.”) Jargon. Keep in mind that less information can be better. A tip for making your interactions more positive: When you need to refer to a policy or business practice. Keep your explanation brief. financial assistance program) WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. It can make customer think we‟re trying to hide behind bureaucratic rules.” Don‟t read the customer city codes. more unified. rather than seeking to work together to resolve a problem. We know what the words mean.

yet you failed to pay anything.” In addition. Example of emotionally charged words: “You claimed you would pay the bill in full by September 1. try to listen to your own tone of voice to make sure you‟re not escalating with an angry customer. to be condescending and sarcastic. It can be hard to know how you come across.Words to avoid Try to avoid using negative. emotionally charged words.” What might you say instead? (“Our records show you indicated you‟d pay the bill by September 1. Certain words can cause a negative reaction. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Try to learn from the experience. Page 14 of 31 . together with their last name. you might hear something in your voice that you want to work on. Ask to listen to one of your recorded calls where a customer was being especially challenging. Now that you‟re listening to the call as an observer. Never use words that can be taken as offensive. It may seem tempting—and even natural— to respond the same way. They may sound accusatory and confrontational. But it‟s part of being a professional to stay calm and courteous. unless they‟ve asked you to call them by their first name. don‟t call a customer “Sweetie” or “Hon. 2. Two techniques to try: 1. or permissible.”) Rudeness and sarcasm Even if the customer is rude or sarcastic. as of today. we have not received a payment. it‟s never helpful. for example. or Ms. Ask a coworker or lead or supervisor for their honest impression of how your voice sounded during a challenging interaction. Begin all interactions in a positive way by addressing the customer with respect: Use Mr. Unfortunately.

” You might even say. “I would be frustrated too. Page 15 of 31 . For example. For example… “My apologies for your inconvenience. picture yourself as a customer when you‟ve been angry or upset in a store or restaurant or on the phone. It doesn‟t mean agreeing with the customer or being disloyal to the Water Bureau. It means showing you recognize and acknowledge the customer’s feelings. apologize for the situation.METHODS THAT MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE Apologize During the initial part of the interaction. You don‟t have to break a policy and give in to everything the customer asks for. An apology is usually important to the customer. sincere tone of voice is essential. and that you‟re not trying to argue with them.” When apologizing. You don‟t have to take the blame or say we are wrong. Empathy doesn‟t mean pity. The customer may not be expecting an apology. The words should be simple.” This acknowledges that you recognize the customer‟s feelings. it is a dumb policy”). It usually helps to tell the customer you understand that they feel frustrated. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008.” or “I‟m sorry you had to take the time to come in (or call). It shows the customer that you respect their feelings. To help yourself empathize. So apologizing right up front can help turn a potentially unpleasant transaction into a positive one. Soothe Important to convey empathy. What you don’t have to do:    You don‟t have to agree with the customer (for example: “Yes I agree. if you say: “I understand how frustrating this can be.

” This has at least three benefits:    It‟s positive (something the customer may not have expected). then to be understood.” In other words. don‟t start making your point until you‟ve really listened. Those of you who like books about personal growth are probably familiar with Stephen Covey‟s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Assure you can help Assure customer you can help (if you can). This will help you gain their cooperation. It establishes that you want to help. One of the seven habits is: “Seek first to understand. and let them know they came to— or called—the right place. you need to understand the problem. plus you‟ll gain control of the visit (or call). Set stage for taking Tell customer: control “I‟m glad you called to let us know about the situation. Accept the responsibility. It indicates that you will be in charge of the next steps in resolving the problem. Because you‟ll probably learn some things that are relevant and that will influence your response.Listen Before you can start to solve the problem. heard and understood the customer‟s point of view. So let the customer know you want to listen and understand. and for giving me the chance to help. Page 16 of 31 .

or bringing up problems unrelated to Water Bureau. indicates you are willing and ready to help. It‟s reasonable and helpful to let the customer vent. Help you find out facts/information you need.Two tips for taking control 1.) 2. But if customer is repeating himself/herself. you can take control of the conversation by asking: “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Why is this question helpful? (Brings customer back to reality. Puts you in charge instead of letting the customer repeat or ramble. Another technique to take control: Ask closed-ended questions. helps them focus on the key things they want. What is an example of a closed-ended question you might use with a customer? (“Are you receiving your bills at that address?”) WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Page 17 of 31 . Closed-ended questions will:    Help you direct and focus the discussion. Help you determine what the customer wants.

For example. and came in today because they received a Final Notice Card: “Yes.”) WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Page 18 of 31 . customer has not paid. I‟m looking at your account and I see you use Budget Billing. I see that your water is scheduled to be turned off on Tuesday. (As opposed to saying “Let me see what‟s wrong. if a customer believes their bill is incorrect because it‟s higher than usual: “I appreciate your concern. Instead of saying what you can’t do.” Makes the customer feel you are working with them and trying to help. I see this is the month that your billing „trues up. So the amount on the bill is correct.‟ which means (explain).” Words like appreciate.How to give a customer bad news Sometimes you have to tell a customer something they don‟t want to hear. Two methods to give bad news that can keep the conversation positive: 1. When you have to give bad news. 2. say what you can do. Here‟s what I can do… (Explain options for payment arrangements and assistance programs).” or “I see the problem” or “You misunderstood. Tell the customer what is within your scope of authority. glad and clarify are positive and help keep the situation positive. ease it by making some positive statements. For example. But I‟m glad you brought it to my attention so I could have a chance to clarify.

codes or rates. What we don’t want to happen is for a customer to contact the media or the Mayor/Commissioner because they got poor service. involve a lead or supervisor. It‟s not unusual for a customer to question a policy or a rate increase. If can‟t think of a technique. or threatens to contact a TV station or send a letter to the editor of The Oregonian. Have them add their initials and post on flipchart. Threats WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. even less—maybe one difficult interaction a month. what did a customer service person do that made you more satisfied with the interaction and earned your future business? SPECIFIC SITUATIONS YOU MAY ENCOUNTER First. ask yourself:   When you’ve been angry with a store or other business. Customers have the right to talk to the Mayor‟s office or Commissioner‟s office about policies.Flipchart: “Things that Really Help” Remind participants to write their best techniques or advice on Post-It notes. Will discuss toward the end of this class. use your best problem solving skills to try to assist the customer. If the customer says they want to speak to the Mayor or Water Bureau Commissioner. Be sure to document what you covered with the customer in the account Memo. some good news! Angry customer situations will not happen often! Call Center reps may get a couple a week. what did the salesperson or customer service person do that helped make you feel better? Or. Page 19 of 31 . per Corbett. per Carrie. don‟t panic. In Service Center. If a customer threatens to call the media or the Mayor or Commissioner. If that doesn‟t suffice.

yelling.) Above all: Don‟t let yourself be confrontational to match the customer. As Corbett White has said. I‟d like to help you resolve this issue.” What advantages would these statements have? (Acknowledges their feelings. “I‟d certainly like to help you. it‟s human nature to take it personally and yell back or respond sarcastically. To do that. we need to be able to have a calm conversation together. you‟re required to periodically put up with abusive language or swearing. “Would you shut up! What is your problem??” or “Do you mind if I get a word in edgewise?” or “You need to calm down and listen!” More likely that the person is angry at a situation or at the City than at you personally. Page 20 of 31 . they will calm down. Allows them to save face because you‟re not screaming back. Would you like me to give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts? Or if you like. Here are two options that work well: “I understand you are frustrated. Giving good customer service does not mean having to be a door mat. but the profanity is making it impossible. swearing True or False: If you work in a customer service job.Insults. False. When someone is yelling at you.” WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Sounds like you sincerely want to help. Direct the conversation by telling the customer you want to help them if they would calm down. If you stay professional. it makes the customer more argumentative and more agitated. I‟d be glad to call you back. “It‟s hard to have an argument by yourself. Gives person a chance to realize what they‟re doing and calm down.” Or. It may be temping to say. calm and composed.

If you should ever feel that a situation is physically dangerous to you. Use good judgment to decide if you need to get help. Nonetheless. there is a Police buzzer under the cashier station. or if you get to the point where you can’t help the customer.When to get help Handle the interaction yourself if possible. your lead will realize that emotions are starting to escalate and will step in to assist. it‟s important to know what to do in case you should ever feel threatened. although they cannot force them. If you feel the situation is extreme. Next time they have a problem. Benefits:   Customer doesn‟t get passed around and have to tell their story again. make sure you‟ve done everything within your power to work with the customer. you can ask for help from a lead or supervisor—they are here to support you. The lead will probably ask the customer to step over to the third station and handle the transaction from there. if volume starts to raise. Your lead and your manager have remote controls they can use to summon Security. Before you decide to get help. you should call the lead over and ask for assistance. Since our office is open. Page 21 of 31 . If your lead isn‟t nearby. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Customer realizes you are empowered to help. Security will ask the person to leave the premises. if you work in the Service Center. or you perceive that the person is attempting a robbery. they don‟t immediately ask for a supervisor. If you ever feel you’re in danger Incidents when you might be in danger will be extremely rare.

“I am sorry. Would you like a few minutes to gather your thoughts?”) If the situation is still extreme. you are not paid to take abuse. I am terminating this call now. But remember. but the profanity is making it impossible. but what technique could you use in such an interaction? (Similarly. Service Center: You can‟t hang up. state you will not continue this discussion if they continue to use profanity. cursing. I‟m unable to do so if you continue to use profanity (or shout at me). however. Use words we reviewed earlier: “I‟d like to be able to help you. Immediately tell your supervisor about the call and the reason you hung up. First issue a warning: “I really do want to assist you.” and hang up. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Make a note in the account Memo. or insulting you. they‟ll know we‟re serious about how we are willing to interact with them. You‟re paid to use your best skills and judgment to solve problems. Page 22 of 31 .” If the customer continues the behavior. If you‟ve done everything you can and the customer is still screaming. say. don‟t just hang up on them. get support from your lead or supervisor. That should minimize the likelihood of them continuing the abuse—with you or with other service reps. If the customer calls back.About hanging up Some people have been taught that you can never hang up on a customer.

frustrated. IMPLICATIONS FOR WORKING WITH ANGRY OR UPSET CUSTOMERS Since any customer who comes into the Service Center has made an effort to be there. eye contact and smile. [Refer participants to worksheet titled “Strategies for the Call Center and Service Center. (For example.  Nodding and making eye contact shows that you‟re listening to the customer. But there are some differences in physical circumstances and in how we can respond. smile and eye contact.”] Service Center WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT WORKING IN THE SERVICE CENTER Customer took the time/trouble/expense to come in. with a friendly greeting. acknowledge the new customer with a glance. timely and productive service. confused. We can observe if the customer looks stressed.  Avoid negative body language. We can read the customer’s body language. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. important to provide accurate. and respond accordingly. Since we‟re face to face. Looking at watch = impatient).  Use the chance to start positive.CALL CENTER AND SERVICE CENTER-SPECIFIC ISSUES Strategies for the Call Center and Service Center Most of the skills and techniques for working with angry customers apply equally to the Service Center and Call Center. etc. crossing arms suggests you‟re angry or displeased. have them fill out the column titled “Implications for Working with Angry or Upset Customers. so they may feel more entitled to get desired outcome. Looking away = disinterested. we have the ability to use our body language and facial expression to communicate. Page 23 of 31 . embarrassed. If you‟re assisting another customer.” As we go through the next sections.

Can‟t “hang up” if customer is abusive. Page 24 of 31 . If customer is extremely agitated. [Have participants add other factors. and ask them to stop the profanity or shouting. as discussed previously. Customer may demand to see Mayor or Commissioner. Should call for assistance from lead.] WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. and review with group. it can feel frightening for us. Use techniques we just discussed regarding threats. May need to contact Security or Police or Advanced Solutions Team if appropriate. Other unique factors: _______________ _______________ Explain that the behavior is making it impossible to help them.

Use the skills you‟ve learned to improve the situation to the extent you can.Call Center WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT WORKING IN THE CALL CENTER Customer feels they‟re invisible. Other unique factors: _______________ _______________ WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. ask questions to clarify. Use your tone of voice to convey concern. keep your voice at the same pitch. To sound calm and in control. and review with group. What does “calm” sound like? (When people‟s emotions escalate.] There is no way for you to read the customer‟s body language. Keeping a calm tone of voice is essential to keeping control. If they say words like “You are incompetent.” remember they don‟t mean you. empathy or authority. Customers are more likely to yell or use abusive language by phone than when face to face. they mean the City or the Water Bureau. you need to get your act together. IMPLICATIONS FOR WORKING WITH ANGRY OR UPSET CUSTOMERS Sometimes customers who are having a terrible day take it out on us. All you can go by are the customer‟s words—what they say and how they say it. Try not to take it personally. speed and volume as normal. Page 25 of 31 . To be sure you understand the customer‟s issue. Can‟t use your own body language to help you communicate. louder. and faster. Paraphrase to make sure you understand. so can be on worst behavior. their words usually get higher pitched.) [Have participants add other factors.

CASE PROBLEMS Assign problems [Have participants work in groups of four. Assign a Case Problem to each group. What else they might do. etc. this transaction should be documented. Page 26 of 31 . As always. and 2. and they should choose a note taker and a speaker.] Read out NOTING THE CUSTOMER RECORD What to include in Memo Like any customer transaction. For example:     The name of the person you talked to What you discussed Any arrangements made Any relevant dates. Ask other teams: 1. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Tell them they have five minutes to discuss.] [Have each group explain their situation and what techniques they would use to work with the customer. you will include relevant facts. What would be helpful about that method.

What NOT to include Do not make any statements that would be considered offensive if the customer were to read them. leave it out of the Memo. “The customer was concerned about XYZ. In all cases:  No sarcasm  No character defamation  No judgment of customer‟s sanity. so anyone can read them. screamed. When in doubt. irate) or behavior (yelled. intelligence or sobriety Do not mention customer‟s anger (furious.” If customer made threats (said they would call the Mayor or Water Bureau Commissioner or newspaper). would you be comfortable with what you had written? If not. Page 27 of 31 . Consider the “newspaper test:” If you were quoted in the newspaper. Memos in the system are considered public information. cursed). WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. You might state. put a note in the account to document what they said and how you responded. ask a lead or supervisor to read the Memo before you finalize it.

but can adjust our own attitudes. it can help us manage our own feelings. If we can remind ourselves that people are human and have bad days. or at least neutral. Call Center: Place a small mirror near your phone so you can see your facial expression. When a customer is abusive. we didn‟t do anything wrong. it‟s not about you— it‟s about a policy or problem or about the city. 3. It may also help to remember that part of our reaction comes from our own expectations. 2. Hard not to when the customer is yelling at YOU! Using the skills in this course will help you work with the customer. Release slowly. When we‟re at work.”    What other techniques help you? WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Let‟s look at some common attitudes and what happens to us as a result of having those attitudes: 1. Remember in most cases.STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS AND TECHNIQUES Our own expectations We cannot “fix” other people. Try to not take the customer‟s frustration personally. Talk to another rep or supervisor for “moral support. We tend to take things personally. or even about the customer themself. Doing something physical can help. stretch or take a walk. When we get a situation that‟s unpleasant. Pause before you speak. After the interaction. Stress management techniques Some techniques that help:    Take a deep breath. it makes us indignant because it‟s unfair—after all. we expect things to go pleasantly. We’re nice people and we wouldn’t treat someone else badly. Scientific studies show that smiling can actually make you feel better. Page 28 of 31 . most of the time. takes us by surprise and throws us off balance. or they may have legitimate reasons to be angry.

the customer usually comes away with a good impression of the Water Bureau.] CONCLUSION Recovery When you have a customer interaction that starts out negative and turns out positive.SUCCESS STORIES Your best story Think of a situation where you worked effectively with a customer who had been upset. what did the customer want? How did you handle it? What worked/what helped? What could you have done better? [Have several participants read or summarize their story.] Lessons What do some of these success stories have in common? [Discuss lessons we can learn from each other. WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. you are the Water Bureau. Chances are that when you worked effectively with them to solve a problem. you improved their attitude about the Water Bureau and maybe even the City. From the viewpoint of the customer that you helped. Page 29 of 31 . Write down:     What was the situation.

we don‟t have a job. Review flipchart [Review items participants posted on “Things that Really Help” flipchart. You may not be able to turn every experience into a happy one. Add any final items participants want to add. but you will feel less stressed. plus you‟re more aware of your ability to manage your own attitudes and reactions. Without customers. You now have a few more techniques for being successful in working with angry customers.Future interactions Using these techniques doesn‟t mean you‟ll never have to work with another angry customer. and more in control.] WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. It‟s important to remember that we‟re here in Customer Service to serve customers. Page 30 of 31 . Even when you get a customer who‟s angry or challenging. there‟s usually a way to defuse the anger and make it a more positive experience. Tell participants we will summarize techniques from all classes and email everyone the list of techniques.

These are laminated cards to post by the phone. You are awesome and you‟re doing a great job! Closing [Ask for any final comments or questions.” Tell your supervisor about the call. but the profanity is making it impossible. Ensure everyone has signed Attendance sheet. Would you like me to give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts?” If need to terminate the call: Issue a warning: “I want to assist you.” If profanity continues: “I am sorry.Summary cards [Hand out “Reminders and Key Phrases” summary cards.]  WORKING WITH ANGRY CUSTOMERS October 2008. Apologize. listen. then problem solve together. but I‟m unable to do so if you continue to use profanity. soothe. Ask how many picked up some techniques they think will help. Focus on the positive: “Here‟s what I can do for you…” If comments become repetitive or unrelated to Water Bureau: “Is there anything else I can do for you?” If swearing or yelling: “I‟d like to be able to help you resolve this concern. Remember. Have participants fill out Course Feedback form. Page 31 of 31 . with the following reminders and key phrases: REMINDERS AND KEY PHRASES FOR DIFFICULT INTERACTIONS      Breathe. it‟s usually not personal. recap. I am terminating this call now.

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