10 Ways Call Center Agents Can Deal with Irate Customers

by | Apr 14, 2020 | Improving Customer Service and Success

No matter which way you slice it, dealing with irate customers is bound to happen when working as a call center agent. Handling said irate customers can be tricky, particularly when their frustrations feel directed expressly at you. Nevertheless, the approach you employ to deal with them can make the difference between winning or losing them altogether. In fact, 90 percent of customers base their decision on whether or not to do business with a company solely on the experience they have with its customer service representatives. 


What makes your customer angry in the first place?


Keeping it together in the heat of the moment can feel next to impossible. I totally understand. That’s why knowing the facts and how your behavior impacts the bigger picture can mean everything for coming out on the other side with your customer still intact. The top reasons why customers are irate is because they: 


  1. Have an issue with the product or service they purchased.
  2. Waited on hold to get a customer service agent..
  3. Been transferred to multiple agents and have told their story over and over.
  4. Believed there are hidden fees or costs. 
  5. Are not pleased with the quality of the product. 


It’s important to note that beyond upholding your brand’s integrity through treating your customers with care and respect, you must remind yourself that acquiring a loyal customer in the first place is no cheap endeavor. You need to hold onto them, because it will run your company anywhere from 5 to 25 times more to amass new ones. 


Bring your customers on a journey


There’s no need for this journey to be a long one — but you need to get them from point A – being angry, to point B – being less angry or even happy. However, figuring out how get them to a happier place is difficult, but don’t give up! After all, 70 percent of the customer’s experience boils down to the way an agent makes them feel. Treating your customers well should be understood, but let’s dig a little deeper into how you can successfully carry your customer to a happy place, even in the worst of circumstances. 


10 ways call center agents can deal with irate customers 


1. Ask them their name and kindly use it to address them 

There is both sincerity and power when you opt to ask a customer their name, and then use it throughout your conversation together. It compels a connection and humanizes the interaction. Instead of using the words “ma’am” or “sir,” respectfully addressing them by their name builds rapport and conveys that you care and truly want to assist them in resolving their problem. 

2. Listen intently 

Our minds have a tendency to wander, despite our best efforts to keep focused. Practicing better listening with your friends and family can help you become a better listener for your customers. Part of becoming a more attentive and intentional listener is to break habits like interrupting the speaker to make a suggestion for a solution. Allow your customer to fully complete their spiel before asking clarifying questions. 

3. Repeat it back to them

Even though your brain is chock full of suggestions, pause and repeat back to your customer what they have explained to you. While you are repeating, type out notes in your customer’s account or profile. That way, if you end up having to escalate their issue to another representative or supervisor, the customer doesn’t have to start at square one all over again. 

4. Put yourself in their shoes

Not every customer is well-versed or experienced in the product you are servicing, so take that into account before minimizing their issue. Give your customer the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know everything there is to know about a product or service. Extending some grace and compassion to your disgruntled customer can allow you to step outside of yourself long enough to offer a more genuine solution to them. 

5. Keep calm 

Assuming that you have taken every step possible to soothe your angry customer’s soul, they are still on fire. It is okay to take a soft 15 (seconds) for a few deep breaths to recalibrate. If you find yourself becoming frustrated or upset, kindly ask the customer if they mind you placing them on a very brief hold for you to gather your thoughts before moving forward with them. 

6. Find a solution 

There is always a solution that can play a role in alleviating some of the issues your customer faces. Granted, the solution they may have in mind may include a full refund, and in many cases, that simply isn’t possible. Familiarize yourself with your company’s protocols in order to minimize hold times for your customers. If you get hung up, don’t be afraid to communicate with your customer that you are diligently working to find a solution for them. Then, formulate a game plan. 

7. Try to smile

Even if you have to dig really, really deeply, there is power in smiling. Did you know that smiling can affect your tone of voice? The University of Portsmouth in the U.K. discovered that a smile is contagious enough to be not just seen, but heard in your tone. So, when all else fails, conjure up some thoughts and ideas that make you smile, and it could cheer up your customer.

8. Walk them through your game plan

Once you’ve established how you’d like to handle your customer’s situation, kindly share it with them. In some cases, your solution may be exactly what the customer wanted and needed; however, in other cases your best effort may come up a little short in their mind. Communicate to the customer that you have done everything possible and “here’s how you will help them get to the other side of their issue.” 

9. Be sure to express gratitude for bringing attention to the issue

Even though a customer may have raised a bit of hell, hopefully your hard work helps de-escalate their problem, and as a result of that, express your appreciation. Sharing that you appreciate them calling in to report the issue will play a big role in building a strong, lasting relationship with them, as well as making them feel heard and understood. 

10. Take another breather 

Being accosted by an irate customer can feel overwhelming and has the potential to derail your entire day. Once you have finished with your customer, give yourself a couple of minutes to decompress with a few deep breaths before moving forward to the next customer. Your overall wellness – both mental and emotional – is of the utmost importance.