Cooling Off Hot Customers

Whether on the phone or in person, an angry customer may not make any sense. He or she may ramble, shout or even become speechless, unable to find the right words. Here are some important tips for cooling off customers who are "hot" with anger:


State your name and then let them have their say. Every time you answer the phone or greet a customer, be prepared to spend some time with them. There is usually no need to interrupt, argue, defend, give excuses or raise your voice. Your self-control and patience may prevent an escalation of the problem. They may or may not have a legitimate beef with the company, or they may be reacting to a personal problem. In any case, you just happen to be on the receiving end of their rage. Don't take it personally.

If, after the customer has stated the problem, you have no questions about it, and your role in solving the problem is not obvious, ask them, "What would you like me to do?" If you feel confident you can do what the customer asks, agree to do it. If you can't or don't want to do what the customer asks - or if you need more time to decide what to do - tell the customer you will do everything possible to solve the problem as soon as possible. Ask for their phone number and the best times to call them back.

If the customer has told a story more to elicit sympathy than to get action, see if you can "make it up" to him or her in the company's name. For instance, if relevant, say, "I understand how upsetting that is, and I'm really sorry that happened to you. I'll see that the incident is reported so that we can correct the problem." This attitude should leave a positive impression of your company in the customer's mind.

If on the phone, take notes while listening to the problem. If in person, write down your notes as soon as the customer leaves. Use your notes as a guide and reminder of what you need to do to resolve both their problem and similar occurrences in the future.

Once you and the customer agree to a resolution of the problem - or you promise to call back - follow through as soon as possible. If you can't resolve the problem quickly, keep the customer informed of that fact. Otherwise, the customer may think nothing is being done at all and that you've forgotten all about it. If nothing has been done, call and explain why.

Keep in mind that customers want to be taken seriously, to be treated with respect, to get fast action and to be heard - just like you do. Show them that you sincerely value them.

With your "can-do" attitude and follow-up, a customer's anger can be converted into a sense of loyalty to your company - and perhaps a good word for you as well.

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