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How to Deal with Difficult Customers on the Phone

Dealing with an unhappy customer is difficult in any situation but when you are on the phone, it can be even harder. There’s no body language to help you understand what’s really going on and it can be challenging to diffuse the situation. That’s why training on how to handle those tricky phone conversations is a must for your staff.

Work as quickly as you can

Customers will get more frustrated and demanding if they feel things are taking longer than they should. So the key is to get the heart of the problem and find a solution as quickly as you can. Stay cool under the pressure.

Let them tell you the whole story

There’s a good chance within a few sentences, you have an idea of what the problem is and what the solution will be.  But it is best to let them tell you the whole story.  Not only might you be wrong in your initial assessment, but it makes them feel they have been heard and given the time to talk about their issue. This can help calm them down while interrupting them to predict the outcome can just make things worse.

Apologise and take ownership

An apology isn’t admitting you did anything wrong, it is just a polite way to acknowledge they are unhappy.  So it is important to apologise to them regardless of the situation. Telling them that they were actually at fault isn’t going to make things better – even if this is the truth!  You can work around to the explanation once they calm down, but an apology can help take the fire out the conversation. Reassure the customer that you will take ownership of the problem and resolve it to the end.

Recheck the problem

Once they have finished telling the story and you have apologised, next you want to recheck the problem.  Tell them what you have heard and summarise their problem.  This shows you listened but also clarifies the issue in languageyou understand.  This can be very important if you have to escalate the call to someone else as you can easily explain the problem and save the customer going over it again.

Solve the issue where possible

A lot of the time, you are going to be able to solve the issue immediately. And you should do this if you are certain and confident that you can.  Make sure you are confident in what you are doing and telling the client though – don’t promise them a replacement item tomorrow if you know that it will be the beginning of next week.

Escalate and introduce

If you can’t sort the problem, thenescalate it quickly and introduce them to the call handler. Brief your colleague so they don’t need to ask all the same questions again and explain to the caller who they will now be speaking to and why. That way they don’t feel abandoned and just passed on.

Handling phone conflict is a vital aspect of customer service training, which we cover in our extensive training programmes. If you’d like your team to advance their call handling skills, fill in our contact form today or you can call us on 01454 203355.

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