According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, an unhappy customer remembers the incident for 23 1/2 years and talks about it for 18 months. Your ability to win over angry and rude callers can help your business more than you can imagine.
On average an angry customer will talk to 11 friends about the incident within one week and each of those friends will tell 5 other people about the incident within 2 weeks. That is a total of 67 people that know about the incident that made you mad within 3 weeks. I’ll bet you have heard somebody on the phone with an angry or frustrated customer and when they hung up they said “so what if they don’t want to do business with us, they are just one customer!” One customer indeed.
In face-to-face conversations, 80 % of a message is non-verbal (55% body language and appearance with 25% attitude and tone of voice). On the telephone you don’t deal with the body language but the attitude and tone of voice is increased to 45%. Listening skills are critical.
When you have an angry customer on the telephone, give them your “5 star” attitude. Number one and two on the list is sit up straight in your chair and breathe. Good posture helps you to pay attention better and controlled breathing keeps your blood pressure down. When people react angrily the first thing they do is hold their breath, which causes their blood pressure to “shoot up” which prohibits clear thinking.
The third “star” is to eliminate distractions, if you were working on something, put it away or if there are people in your office or cubical, ask them to leave. You need to be able to concentrate 100% on the problem at hand. If you have an unscreened angry caller and need time to think for a few seconds you can say “I am going to put you on hold for about 10 seconds to clear my distractions so I can focus on your situation”. This will help you gather information and make them feel important.
Number four is to be extremely patient, do not loose your cool. Don’t take the customers anger personally, they are not mad at you, they are mad at whoever is on the other end of the phone.
The last of the 5 stars is to be efficient, take good notes of the conversation. The average attention span of a person listening on the phone is 7-9 seconds before their mind briefly wanders. Note taking helps you to see the words as well as hear them. You can use the notes to ask questions for clarification of to just show the customer that you care. Think about this, what would you feel like if you were logging a complaint and the person you were complaining to say, “Do you mind if I take a few notes?” How would you feel? You would probably feel they cared about what you were saying. Plus by taking notes you can ask them to speak more slowly. Slowing speech can decrease a person’s anger momentum.
Remember in handling an angry caller always practice exceptional courtesy and kindness. Empathize with them, “walk a mile in their shoes”, see things from their point of view. In Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. He uses the phrase Feel, Felt, Found. When empathizing it sounds like this, “Mrs. Jones, I know how you feel, I have felt the same way but let me tell you what I found………….” Many times angry callers don’t want you to solve their problem. They just want you to treat them like an individual and listen.
Always use their name, “Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith” or you can use their first name if you are on a first name basis. It would be best for them to know and use your name; this can help to curtail their anger because now you become a person.
Finally, if you have to transfer the call for any reason make sure you brief whomever you transfer the call to on the situation. This is where the notes come in handy. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than explaining a situation to someone who can’t help, then getting transferred to another department and having to start the explanation all over again.
The key to handling angry callers is to visualize in your mind that you can do it. 99.75% of angry callers are normal people that can be reasoned with. The other .25% that can’t be reasoned with is called “Illogical Customers” and their goal in life is to be difficult. Nothing you say is going to be satisfactory. Don’t let this small percentage effect the way you handle the rest. Remember, “If you think you can, you can and if you think you can’t, you are right.”