I’m not a fan of conflict. I’ve mastered the skill of removing anger from most situations. I know that anger is a fleeting emotion so I relax in the knowledge that it can be easily erased with a degree of patience and problem-solving—a more human approach.
This principle should be applied to customer support—dealing with angry customers by understanding the reason behind the emotion and taking steps to transform the negative situation into a beneficial result for all involved.
Recognize the value of a complaint
A customer’s complaint can hold great value to your business. It is important to listen to their feedback and recognize that they are doing you a favor by helping you improve your product or service. Rather than stressing about an uncomfortable string of emails, use a complaint to build a stronger relationship with that customer.
No matter how exceptional you and your support team are at providing a great customer experience, there will always be at least one angry customer who slips through the cracks. How you respond will define that customer’s perception of your company and whether they share positive or negative stories about their experience.
When that angry customer comes knocking at your inbox, here are a few tips that will take you to a positive resolution.
The most important thing is to listen so that you gain a clear understanding of the customer’s issue. Read their message carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need clarity on the query.
If you find yourself frustrated or offended by a message, try not to take things personally—it could simply be a difference in communication style, whether a message is direct or conversational. The customer contacted you because they have a problem they need you to understand.
Their feedback will benefit your business. Use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customer. It is important that you listen and are equipped with all the knowledge and tools that will solve their problem.
The best way of dealing with an angry customer is to be honest and apologize. When you admit the mistake and show the customer that you are very sorry about the situation, you can change their attitude in your favor. People appreciate honesty and an apology is often the result they were hoping for.
According to Carey School of Business, people were twice as likely to forgive a company that apologized on top of compensation. Explain to the customer that this is not a common issue and that you are working on a resolution.
You will need to go above and beyond to make up for the error, by being extra attentive to the unhappy customer.
Be courteous and offer a resolution that might make up for the mistake.
#3 Show empathy
Make sure you put yourself in the customer’s shoes to see if you feel you have been acknowledged acceptably. By feeling empathy for your customer’s situation, you naturally understand how you should respond.
In the same way that empathy is a fundamental aspect of everyday relationships that people have, it plays a vital part in customer-company relationships. It might be a case of acknowledging that other customers have experienced a similar issue,or perhaps the agent has experienced that particular issue before in other situations.
#4 Maintain a calm tone of voice
Remain calm and your customer is likely to mirror your mood. Be as clear and concise and possible so that your message is easily understood. Ask as many questions as required to identify the issue. Be patient and polite. If you have an angry customer on your hands, or if you are denying them a request, it is not recommended that you use a casual tone of voice. Although the majority of people prefer a casual tone of voice in email interactions, 78 percent of people find that casual-toned responses actually cause them further irritation when they are being denied a request.
#5 The power of a name
As Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, once said:
Treat your customer like an individual, address them by name and show that you know their details by having any previous interaction or order history at hand. There are great benefits to be extracted from providing a personalized experience.
The short-term benefit of personalization is that transaction rates increase six times with personalized emails. The long-terms benefit is the customer loyalty that springs from having a great experience.
Making a personal experience is not just a matter of being polite—it makes your customer feel happy. Not only that, but they will recognize you as another human being, rather than a nameless entity from an elusive company.
#6 Get your customer to trust you
Christine Comaford, an expert on persuasive language has devised a formula for creating trust.
The equation is: safety + belonging + esteem = trust
In order to gain the trust of an angry customer, you can put this equation into action. Increase the customer’s status or esteem by giving them an element of control over the situation. You can do this by simply asking for their help to resolve the issue. Show that they are important to you and an integral part of your community by recognizing their individual needs and knowing their order history. Aim for a first-time resolution if possible. Ensure you provide a comprehensive response for effective results.
Be honest with your customer and stay true to your company’s identity. Build a level of transparency to establish authenticity and a mutual trust with your customer. Transparency will help you and your agents to communicate with more confidence.
#7 Don’t take it personally
Try not to get frustrated because the customer will sense this in the language you use and even in the formatting of a message. Avoid using clumped paragraphs but opt for clear, concise sentences, using bullets and numbering to highlight important details. Don’t be defensive, as this will likely lead to conflict.
Their rage is not aimed at you.
When you show that you are sorry for the situation and empathize with the angry customer, they will identify you as another human being and see you are trying to help. Be confident you are headed in a positive direction to a resolution and a happier customer.
#8 Avoid negative language
Default to a positive tone and avoid using negative language. Show you are confident and extremely sorry for the situation. The trick is to evoke positive emotions with your language.
Use positive language throughout in order to reverse a negative reaction. Raise the status of the customer, showing that you value their opinion with phrases such as, ‘you are my top priority’.For example, you might say, “If there is anything else I can do to help turn your experience into a positive one, please let me know.”
#9 Resolve the issue
You can always turn a negative situation into a positive one, when you show you’re committed to finding a resolution as quickly as possible. If you are unable to do so, be honest and admit this to the angry customer. Assign an agent who is more qualified to deal with the problem.
#10 Share the knowledge
At eDesk, our agents use Snippets to quickly find and share information. There are pre-defined tags that automate a customer’s name or order information. Our team has also built custom tags that suit their needs, including localized information, product details and any elements needed for common support queries.
These tags can be used in messages for speedy and effective responses, but they can also be used when on a call. For example a customer might call with a query about product features that cater to their localized marketplaces.
The agent can quickly enter a hashtag followed by the name of the feature into the body of a message, and will immediately see the required information. The sooner you can resolve the issue, the happier the customer will be.
Communicating with an angry customer is never easy, but if you allow the person to vent their frustration and show respect, empathy and a great deal of patience, they will recognize that there is a human at the other end of the email and you can turn their negative opinion into a positive one.
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