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Can apologizing calm an irate customer? Maybe. Maybe not.
“Sorry” is a common word for call center agents who spend their days demonstrating how they can tackle any issue and drive client satisfaction. But call center staff often have a strong belief that they need to go the extra mile and keep apologizing to deal with difficult customers on the phone.
After all, in the lead generation industry, the call is especially critical in the path to closing in on a sale.
According to Harvard Business Review, apologies that keep resurfacing in the conversation with an irate caller are likely to backfire. More often than not, demonstrating too much empathy or trying to be cheerful in a conversation with emotionally-charged clients also results in decreased satisfaction. If so, the question is, how should call center agents handle a difficult conversation?
Sure, it’s challenging but not impossible to sell to the irate caller whose dissatisfaction has hit an all-time high. Since every issue is unique, asking questions and diagnosing the entire problem is the only way to develop an angry caller policy and make sure that the same or similar problems don’t reoccur in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at how brands can provide excellent call service.
Harnessing the Value of Complaints
Navigating the customer experience can be a tricky matter. Even when brands go to great lengths to deliver excellent service, there’s always a chance that a client can hit a snag.
Murphy’s law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” To name a few things, products can get broken or damaged, deliveries can get delayed, the servers can go down, or call center staff can be unhelpful. Those are pretty substantial motives for angry phone calls, and that’s why delivering a positive experience is not always easy. Besides, client experiences do not occur or remain in a vacuum – negative experiences especially.
Let’s face it: frustrating experiences and bad customer service come at a heavy price. In a recent Microsoft Corporation report, 58% of consumers agreed that poor customer service is a justifiable reason to part ways with a brand. Сoupled with the significant increase in sharing negative information online, this is a social media disaster waiting to happen.
It’s no secret that as activity on social media keeps spiking, consumers continue sharing and comparing their experiences online. This means that, for angry customers, it’s no longer about discouraging only friends and family members. It’s about sharing with everyone and anyone who’s eager to listen. The central question is whether brands realize that silent and irate customers expect excellence, which is reflected in immediate feedback, no recurring issues, and multi-channel support.
Today, the consumer-brand relationship is very different from years past. The tangible benefits of products are no longer the principal focus. Consumers expect communication to transfer seamlessly to different channels, and they have no desire to repeat themselves or describe a problem in detail multiple times. In fact, a phone call ranks number one among all the channels consumers prefer to communicate.
Naturally, phone and email remain the most frequently used channels for consumer-brand communication. That’s why call center agents need to treat complaints and angry phone calls not only as routine tasks and stress factors but also as an opportunity to learn and improve their services, as well as transform the perception of the brand.
What Angry Phone Calls Can Teach Brands
The fear of an angry client is what every call center representative knows firsthand. The acute stress agents feel weekly or even daily is often the cause of increasing call center turnover rates.
While stress is a part of the job for call center agents, it’s also a negative factor that affects the support team’s engagement, satisfaction, and the overall experience provided to customers. In fact, one in three agents states that one of the biggest challenges they have to deal with is managing too many calls. But what about the ability to respond to clients’ needs and expectations?
Sure, the market is volatile and brands have to remain agile and attentive, as well as eager to learn and align their mission with client expectations. Otherwise, brands won’t be able to provide a consistently positive experience to consumers. At the same time, the increasing number of calls can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to handling every angry customer in a call center.
Phone conversations, however, are overflowing with insights that might fall through the cracks if call centers don’t utilize a high-quality tech stack. With the right call tracking solution in place, brands can bridge data gaps, refine the customer journey, boost ROI, and build better relationships with clients.
Every marketer and call center manager needs to leverage call data even if it means driving insights from calls with emotionally charged customers. Call analytics is another critically important part of the tech stack that enables brands to view the client journey from the very first interaction to keywords used during conversations with call center staff.
There’s no doubt that treating angry phone calls or complaints as an opportunity is not that simple. While some of the perceptions and frustrations of angry callers might be unreasonable, the inability of help centers to resolve issues or assign knowledgeable call center staff is often a deal-breaker for customers. Here’s how consumers tend to respond when asked about the most important aspects of customer service.
Source: Microsoft Corporation
As you can see, frustration and angry phone calls originate at a point when customer service falls short of expectations. That’s the principal reason for brands and call centers to develop policies and scripts that enable call center agents to handle confidently every concerned or frustrated client.
Angry Caller Policy Explained
Brands often develop angry caller policies to protect call center representatives and clients. The policies are geared toward professionally handling all types of calls, including rude calls or over-the-line abuse.
However critical it is to ensure client retention, brands also need to take care of call center staff. With such policies in place, call center agents are trained to manage any scenario, draw the line between reasonable anger and abusive calls, set healthy boundaries, and understand when it’s appropriate to disconnect abusive callers.
Here’s how brands can improve the call experience:
- Utilize call recording software: Leveraging a product like Phonexa’s Call Logic is one of the ways to enhance the client experience and take call center training to the next level. It allows marketing experts and managers to get transcripts of the conversations and scan them for specific keywords and patterns.
- Use IVR to speed up the process: Utilizing interactive voice response can help businesses take the pressure off their call center agents by solving simple issues or queries. While some clients get frustrated by IVRs, it can be an extremely effective tool if brands ensure that it offers solutions instead of obstacles like complicated menus or putting clients on hold.
- Follow up with difficult customers: It’s not uncommon for clients to get angry during a call because of issues unrelated to the conversation. Some consumers tend to be silently frustrated, which often makes them silently seethe. That’s why making a follow-up call can help agents address the imbalance and mitigate risks.
- Offer alternative options or solutions: Some customers find it hard to clearly communicate the issues for numerous reasons, including anger. That’s why it can be helpful to suggest using alternative communication channels like email, for instance, to explain their position and provide more details.
Dealing with emotionally charged clients also requires a specifically tailored strategy and well-rounded script. Here’s how brands can ensure that consumers are heard and agents are efficient.
How to Calm an Angry Customer
In most cases, active listening coupled with conflict resolution skills can de-escalate angry phone calls. However, every call center representative should be trained and prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Here are some strategies that have proven to be effective in de-escalating angry clients.
Allow Clients to Vent
Interruption is the worst approach when dealing with difficult customers on the phone. The principal task of the call center manager is to stay calm and lower the temperature of a potentially heated conversation. Once the situation is under control, agents can ask for more details and offer alternatives or solutions.
Ultimately, every client wants to feel valued and heard. If the situation doesn’t escalate or a client doesn’t become more emotional, the query can get resolved in no time.
Work on Reflective Listening Skills
It’s hard enough for consumers to hear that a call center representative understands them. A more effective approach is to hear clients out, analyze the situation and then, interpret their words. This way, any irate caller will note that the agent is interested in getting to the bottom of the problem and is actively committed to resolving it.
Break Down the Issue
Every complicated problem consists of several manageable components. Breaking down a serious issue is an effective problem-solving approach. This way, call center staff can outline the smaller issues, organize their tasks, and get a better portion – if not all – of the work done before the follow-up calls.
Don’t Fall Prey to Emotion
The way agents react to angry phone calls determines the course of the conversation. It’s critical for call center staff to remember that they have far more to lose than their temper. Keeping the language and tone professional and treating clients with respect regardless of the situation should be prioritized at all times.
Learn to Handle an Angry Customer in a Call Center: Script
Real-life scenarios can be very helpful when it comes to training help center team members. While the principal approach of businesses is to come up with specific scripts that can help call center staff deal with angry callers, improvising can also be part of the training process. This way, agents can learn the skills that are essential for handling tricky situations like pros.
Examples of Customer Service Scripts
Call center agents usually don’t have to deal with angry callers nonstop. But they can occasionally come across an emotionally charged or verbally aggressive client. Here are some suggestions on what businesses can add to their scripts to help agents de-escalate angry callers:
- I understand your frustration. Can you please elaborate a bit more on [problem]?
- Hello [Name], thank you for bringing this up. We’re currently working on resolving this issue. Can you please hold on for a few seconds? I’ll check with my team and update you on this further.
- What I’m hearing is that you’re having trouble using our [product, service, feature, etc.]. Would you feel comfortable if I connect you with a [dedicated expert]?
- [Name], that’s a great question. Let me find that out for you right away.
- We appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings regarding this matter. Unfortunately, we’re not currently planning to implement [new features, services, etc.]. Should anything change about your query, we’ll let you know right away.
- Hello [Name], we are sorry to hear that. Your anger is absolutely justified. Here’s what we can do to fix the issue.
- [Name], we realize this is disappointing and apologize for the temporary inconvenience. In the meantime, a [suggestion of an alternative action or solution] can work as a temporary fix.
- [Name], we’re sorry about that. Here are three easy steps that can help you fix the problem: First, you need to [a detailed instruction]. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.
Ultimately, developing call center scripts makes sense to ensure that call center staff deliver consistent answers and a delightful experience to customers. Having well-tailored responses in place helps support teams to stay in control of the conversations.
Consumers expect meaningful interactions when they reach out to brands as part of the lead generation journey. They also expect consistent answers and immediate feedback, especially when they encounter issues and become frustrated.
Solutions like IVR, call tracking, and call recording empowers brands to get a clear understanding of how they operate and serve their clients.
With a high-quality tech stack in place – like Phonexa’s all-in-one marketing automation solution for calls, leads, clicks, email, SMS, accounting, and more – businesses can focus on other critical tasks like developing scripts for help centers and understanding how to de-escalate irate callers.
Armed with actionable insights, effective strategies, advanced tracking, and analytics, brands can ensure that they are delivering compelling, consistent, and exceptional service.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about the Phonexa platform and how its singular suite of marketing automation tools can help you optimize your efforts and elevate the customer experience.