In Customer Service, we get stressed callers from time to time. Stressed callers are Customers who have the potential to become irate. Poor Customer Service skills will actually make them become irate. The skilled, high performing Customer Service agent will defuse the situation, and will prevent the Customer from becoming irate. Here we offer key tips and techniques to avoid any caller becoming irate.

Despite what the poor Customer Service representative may think, no Customer wants to be irate. Customers become irate when they believe something is wrong or that they have been treated inappropriately. They then become frustrated, angry, annoyed or stressed. Some people become irate more easily than others, but all of these Customers are irate because they have reacted to something you or your Company either did, or failed to do – and they feel that you in Customer Service are continuing to be unresponsive.

The Goal of the Customer Service Professional
Everyone has stressed Customers from time to time. A stressed caller is someone who has the potential to go irate. Our goal in Customer Service is to divert the Customer away from the irate zone and to steer them confidently in to the calm zone.

It is the role of the Customer Service professional not only to have the knowledge and skills to address the issue, but also to have the focus and skills to manage the Caller’s emotional state. It takes clear focus and careful use of skills to take this caller out of the irate zone and in to the calm rational zone. Sometimes this looks impossible, particularly if the Customer Service representative has a lot of irate callers. This is a catch 22 situation. If you believe it is impossible, you will not build the right focus and skills, and you will trigger more and more people to become irate. You are generating irate Customers with your poor approach and skills. The expert Customer Service professional will have few, if any, irate callers.

How to Avoid Irate Callers
There 3 key elements we use to take a stressed Customer in to the calm zone –
1. Focus
2. Skills
3. Timing

The first, focus, is about getting yourself in to the right zone to handle this Customer. When you are in the right zone, you will use the right language and will be better placed to control the call.

Think positive thoughts about your Customers. Think of them as real people, like your relatives or friends, who have a problem and who are stressed about this issue. You are the strong, confident person who will help them sort this issue out, like a warm confident parent. That is the zone to begin the call, the confident parent zone.

The Sequence at the Beginning of the Call
Let us think about what a good, confident parent does when we have a problem. That will give us the sequence of what to do, and how to time the call. The confident parent first shows empathy - Oh dear, That’s not good. They show empathy as they listen to the problem. They ask questions that show they are interested and that they appreciate the issue. They then stop. They move from the empathy mode, to the brisk adult ‘We can get this sorted out’ mode.

This gives us the zones and sequence for handling the stressed Customer –
Step 1 – Empathy
Step 2 – Listen to the issue. Show empathy as you listen - I understand, I can appreciate how you feel.
Step 3 – Question for details – again with empathy. Validate what they say, repeat it back – ‘You ordered this last week, and you still have not got it? If the Customer is totally in the right, show some shock that this should have happened.
Step 4 – Acknowledge the issue – confirm that you understand the issue and the impact this has had on this Customer. Judge the tone of this appropriately for this specific Customer and this issue. Avoid overplaying or underplaying the situation. This phase of the call is critical. If you do NOT confirm the issue back to the Customer, they will feel you still do not understand fully, and they will continue to tell the story. Acknowledging the issue stops that cycle.
Step 5 – Move to the adult, calm solution phase. Here we use a neutral, adult tone and good, positive language to present our solution to the Customer.

We are at Fault or the Customer is at Fault
This 5 step sequence will work with any caller. It is a question of getting in the right zone, and timing the sequence well. It is the same sequence whether the Customer is right, they did not get their order, or when the Customer is wrong, they did not order at all. What we say is obviously different, but the sequence is the same. We still show empathy, listen to the issue, acknowledge the issue and then move to our approach for this situation.

Practicing these techniques with stressed Customers will ensure you can effectively avoid meeting that irate Caller in any Customer Service situation!

Author's Bio: 

Kate Tammemagi specializes in Customer Service Training in Ireland. She provides fully customized Customer Service Courses and Telephone Skills Training.