Dealing with angry customers on the phone

The thumbnail version:

  • Angry customers happen
  • How you handle it is the key to a satisfactory resolution
  • That said, it may sometimes be impossible to resolve

The full version:

Fix. My. Problem!

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’re going to have an angry customer at the other end of the phone. Smiledog, a phone-answering service based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, offers some good advice on how to handle such a call . . .

  1. Validate the problem: The customer may not be right but nevertheless acknowledge their feelings and don’t talk down to them.
  2. Keep emotions out of it: This can be difficult, but you must do it.
  3. Practice pleasantries: Smile (it helps to keep you sounding pleasant). It takes some skill and patience to do this when you have an angry person on the other end, but you must do it.
  4. Get to the bottom of the problem: Figure out exactly what the problem is.
  5. Offer solutions: It’s not good enough to just apologize, you must offer solutions as well.
  6. Avoid delays: If at all possible, solve the problem right away. You may have to go find an answer or confer with someone, but explain what you’re doing and ask them to hold.
  7. Be transparent: If you’re wrong, admit it and then find a real solution; don’t BS the customer.
  8. Know when to quit: If in spite of all your efforts the customer remains angry, unreasonable, or abusive, it will be time to politely end the call.

This is good advice that should work in most cases. But, this is the real world, so in some cases it may be impossible to satisfy an angry caller and you may well end up losing a customer. It happens. It’s part of running a business. Don’t sweat it.