Customer service for those clients from hell

You know those callers – rude and insulting. Of course, they’re not mad at you individually; they are angry with the company, and you’re the recipient of their wrath. We’ve all been told never to take it personally, and once the call is over, we should just go on with our lives, but as much as we promise ourselves and our bosses not to get emotionally entangled in the drama, as exceptional customer service representatives we still want to make it right.

The first part of the angered phone call or meeting is definitely the worst, so we defuse the situation by letting the customer just vent and get it out. Once they’re done, we  acknowledge that we have heard them and recognize their problem by summarizing what they have just said. We refer to the customer by name from the moment we speak with them. We make it personal.  Chances are they’re going to feel better just knowing that we were listening.

We  might not be able to solve their problem, but our next step is to make sure the customer is talking to the right person. We all remember the fire in our own eyes after we have  told our story of dissatisfaction to someone only to find out later, we wasted our time  by speaking with the wrong person, and alas our odyssey had to start again. We make sure we are not showing any negativity toward the customer, and at the very least, “let me check,” will give hope to the most hopeless situation.

Now there is a difference between showing empathy for a situation and showing sympathy; and we know the difference. When we use empathy, we understand why the customer is angry, but with sympathy, we join into the customer’s mindset and agree with why they are angry. That is not going to go far to help the situation.

Sometimes working towards a resolution is going to be a rocky road, but we don’t need to take anyone’s foul language. There’s never an excuse for a caller to be rude and obnoxious, but never feed into the frenzy. If the problem is with the company and it is the company’s fault, we accept the responsibility and don’t use excuses. The customer will appreciate that. Act promptly, report back to the customer with solutions and demonstrate how the company will ensure the problem will not recur.

If we can not resolve the problem, don’t blame the customer. The company and  the representative must be able to make a compromise; being rigid really angers clients and we might as well kiss them goodbye. Set a positive tone; be flexible and keep our once hot-headed customer calm and happy.

photo credit: gideon_wright

One Response to “Customer service for those clients from hell”

  1. Glenn said:

    Apr 30, 10 at 12:11 pm

    Well said about finding the right person to handle the complaint. When you are the right person, read my attempt to extend the conversation here: