ah! You pick up the receiver and screams are heard on the other end. Soon your heart rate is at hardcore and your adrenaline level rises fast. Quiet! Angry customers on the phone are no fun, but if you know how to deal with them, it can be very satisfying to calm them down.

It is crucial that you know how to deal with an angry or complaining caller without losing your temper.

We give you 8 tips to deal with angry customers on the phone in a calm and professional way.

We live in a world that revolves around the customer. That makes sense, because without customers your business will not grow and you will not earn a single penny.

As the market becomes increasingly saturated, companies are coming up with crazier things to take their customer experience to the next level.

Customers know this and are becoming increasingly demanding about what they want from companies, what they like and especially what they don’t like.

You might not expect it when you look around on social media, but most customers are not so quick to write a negative review or actually make that bad phone call.

Research shows that 91% (!) of customers simply leave without saying a word.

Why? Well, because 79% of customers who contacted a company about a bad customer experience were simply ignored.

Customers may not call you right away if they’re not happy, but they’re sure to tell their friends and acquaintances about their bad experience. The average Dutch person even tells about 15 people.

So there is a good chance that you have already lost a number of customers because they were not satisfied, even if an excellent customer experience is your priority. It is important that you treat a customer who calls with a complaint or posts a negative review extremely well, especially because that can provide enormous benefits for your company:

  • Negative reviews increase trust in a company. It is really super easy to buy five star reviews on social media these days, everyone knows that. So it is not surprising if customers expressly look for complaints or negative reviews, because these actually tell a lot more about the product or service. Because we also know: it is really impossible to have only satisfied customers. A website full of rave reviews quickly suggests that the company in question removes all negative reviews or even writes them themselves. Turn it around. Responding to negative reviews shows that you are willing to listen to criticism and learn how to improve your products or services.
  • Complaints and negative messages from customers can put your exceptional customer service in the spotlight. Trolls and spammers aside, complaints or negative reviews are basically customers who give you a ‘second chance’. If you respond by contacting them right away and solving the problem, you’ll be well on your way to building trust in your business and turning a dissatisfied customer into a loyal customer.
  • They show you exceptionally well what customers expect from your company. Complaints and negative reviews are – provided they are constructive – a good source of data on how you can improve your service.

The only problem is that dealing with written complaints is a lot easier than dealing with angry customers on the phone.

How to properly deal with angry customers on the phone?

With written criticism, you have a moment to take a deep breath, analyze the situation and think about the best answer to the issue – you don’t react until everything is prepared.

But what if you get a disgruntled customer on the phone demanding immediate attention?

Any call center agent will tell you that dealing with impatient or rude callers is one of the most difficult aspects of working in a call center – especially since agents answer calls like this almost every day.

It is made even more difficult by the fact that agents must respond to such calls with professionalism, confidence and composure. How? Here are our eight tips on how to deal with customer complaints without ruining your own nerves.

1. Keep calm

First of all, keep your cool, no matter how difficult that may be. When a customer yells at you or insults you, you may be tempted to react the same way, but that’s really the worst thing you can do.

Getting angry, arguing or yelling will only escalate the argument and make you lose control. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that your customer’s anger isn’t directed at you.

It is the situation that makes your customer angry. Suppose your shift has stopped working during a hectic day, that frustrates every normal person, doesn’t it? They are mad at the company and the product, but letting yourself be offended will only make you more stressed.

2. Be nice to the caller

A calm and kind response is the last thing an angry caller expects, and chances are you’ll knock them off their pedestal. A good way to start the conversation is to say that you like the customer reaching out and that you want to help them as quickly as possible.

This shows that you are on his side, ready to listen and can really help you. Don’t raise your voice because that just adds more fuel to the fire.

Because responding professionally to customer complaints and staying calm during a conversation takes a lot of practice, you can (and should) work on maintaining a calm and pleasant tone during difficult conversations – for example, by participating in call center training.

3. Listen!

It’s true that sometimes people just call companies because they’re having a bad day and want to tell their story to someone who really listens to them.

In such cases, it is smart to let the caller talk until he is calm. However, most callers have a problem that they can’t solve themselves and that is the reason they call you.

Have them explain the reason for their dissatisfaction and let them tell you what you want them to do. In some cases it is good enough just to listen.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should keep listening to a caller threatening or scolding you. In such cases, it is better to end the conversation and report it to management. If your company’s policy allows it, of course.

4. Acknowledge the problem

After listening to the caller’s reason for calling, acknowledge that their problem is important to you.

Don’t trivialize or dismiss their concerns, as doing so will only make the customer feel ignored and make them even angrier. Reassure the customer and say that you will do your best to help him or her.

A good way to do this is to confirm the main issue by repeating a summary of what the caller said. This shows that you have listened carefully to the customer and gives them a moment to cool down.

5. Apologize

This is a golden tip for dealing with angry customers on the phone.

If a customer calls with a problem about your product or service (shipping or billing issues, the product isn’t working as expected, the latest software update is full of bugs, etc.) offering a simple apology is golden.

Showing understanding for why the caller is frustrated can immediately put them in a better mood and make solving their problem much easier.

By thanking the caller for contacting you with their concerns or questions, you show that you are willing to help when needed, and that you see their call as an opportunity to improve your service instead of a burden.

6. Ask angry customers on the phone

Has your customer finally calmed down a bit? Then it is now time to start asking questions to map out where the actual pain point really is and what he expects you to do.

You can try to solve the problem right away, but if you don’t, you’re wasting both your time and that of your customer.

By asking detailed questions about the customer’s current needs, you can also resolve the matter on the first phone call and improve customer satisfaction.

7. Don’t promise too much

The faster you find a solution that makes everyone happy (especially your customer), the more satisfied your customer is and the faster you can hang up with peace of mind.

But beware: you may fall into a trap if you try to solve a problem too quickly. Never promise something you are not sure you can keep. Also, don’t give a time or date it was resolved if you’re not 100% sure.

The caller may be equally pleased with the result, but chances are you’ll get a second angry call when he finds out you didn’t keep your promise.

Or they go to someone else, that’s also possible. Tell us what the current situation is and what options you have to help. If you can’t help at this time, tell them you’ll call back with a solution as soon as possible.

8. Send a follow-up email

After inflicting anger on a customer, the last thing you want to do is contact them again. However, a simple follow-up email can show your customers that you’re thinking about them and want to check if they have any questions or concerns.

In such an email, you should thank the customer for their feedback, summarize their original problem and how it was resolved, and ask if they have any other questions or concerns that you can help them with.

A follow-up email also gives the customer the chance to apologize for their past behavior and explain why they acted the way they did.

Pro tip: make sure you have a complete customer view

“Didn’t I just tell your colleague that?!”: an angry customer who has to repeat his story over and over again only gets angrier.

And blame him.

In order to run a good contact center, it is important that you have your basics in order. Make sure that you have all customer information to hand and that your customer does not have to repeat himself continuously.

In a changing customer landscape, the use of contact center software is a must. Software such as Steam-connect bundles all your contact channels into one interface, so you’ll never be left with nothing to say.

Why people call with a complaint (and how to deal with it)

Angry customers on the phone usually have the same problem:

1. The product is damaged or does not work as expected

This is arguably the most common of all customer complaints: the product ordered is damaged or does not work as they thought it would.

In some cases, the damage is obvious (the product won’t turn on, the software often crashes, or the cover has visible signs of wear), so you can ask the customer if they want a replacement or a refund.

The situation is a bit trickier when a customer uses the product in the wrong way.

Ask him what they wanted to do with the product and then gently explain to him how to use it properly.

If the customer wants to return the product because it is not what he actually needed, you can ask him to replace it with another product.

2. You let it go

This is what happens when you promise a customer that their product will ship or their problem will be solved by a certain date – but it doesn’t.

The situation is especially bad if the customer has called or emailed you before and you didn’t notice or forgot to answer.

If you have an angry customer on the phone with exactly this complaint, the best thing you can do is explain the situation and tell them what to do about it.

Admit you made a mistake, apologize, and give him a fair estimate of when the problem will be resolved.

Can’t fix it right away? Then explain the situation to the customer and offer to call them when you know when their problem will be resolved.

3. Bad Customer Service

Calling customer service is already quite stressful, and many things can make the caller experience worse:

  • Long waiting times;
  • Support agents who ignore the caller’s questions or concerns;
  • Being sent from agent to agent and having to repeat the question;
  • Hearing two different things from two different agents.

When these things happen, it’s normal for callers to get frustrated and call with a complaint about the customer support agent.

Apologize for the inconvenience to the customer, ask for details about their previous support experience, and try to answer the complaint.

After the conversation, investigate what caused the bad customer experience to prevent it from happening again.

Angry customers on the phone: keep calm

Angry customers on the phone are the daily reality of call centers. Most of these calls are simply asking for help – the caller has a problem they can’t solve on their own, leaving them stressed, frustrated, and angry.

If you can handle the conversation in a friendly and professional manner, you will get loyal customers. Solving problems quickly and effectively increases confidence in your company.

But that doesn’t mean you have to take the “customer is always right” approach at all times. If a situation gets out of hand, and the customer starts acting vulgar or threatening, it’s okay to hang up and report the conversation.

Also read: 8 common mistakes in customer contact and how to avoid them