How to deal with difficult customers at the inbound call centre

How to deal with difficult customers at the inbound call centre
Photo: Fizkes, BS

Customer interactions are the crux of inbound call centre services. Complaints, queries and requests are handled in the most swift and efficient way possible, in order to extend excellent customer services. It is important for the success of every business to keep their customers happy, even if it means winning over unhappy, unruly customers.

Customer may be king. But that doesn’t mean they are easy to deal with. Dealing with them is almost an art. You need to handle customers with kid gloves because you don’t want to lose them.

When it comes to calming down difficult customers, having skilled agents with the right training becomes important. If you know what exactly to say and how to say it, you can deal with any unhappy customer. It is part of good customer service.

Every customer’s different. Every caller’s unpredictable. Each customer will react in a different way to the same issue. And so, you must not follow a standard guide or one-size-fits all approach. Identifying the type of customer you are handling will put you on the right track. This way, you can tailor your interaction with the caller.

Difficult customers are of various types. These are the kind of difficult customers inbound call centre services usually deal with:

The Abusive Caller: Of all the complex calls that you may deal with at the inbound call centre, the one from the abusive caller is probably the most difficult. They shower you with verbal abuse. This type of caller can affect your morale. With a generous helping of profanity, these customers take their anger and dissatisfaction to another level.

How to deal with them: Well, first things first, the industry standard is to warn the abusive caller three times before disconnecting the call. It is a Herculean task to keep your cool when their abuses only cause stress levels to sky-rocket. However, retaliation is a strict no-no. Remember not to take it personally. Use professional language and calm the customer down. You could offer to call the customer back later giving them time to compose themselves. Or you could also offer to help over email or live chat.

The Angry Caller: This is the annoyed customer who’s reached the end of their tether. These customers are vexed because they have tried everything they can to fix an issue. And so, by the time they reach you, they are already worked up and fuming. And they burst the moment the call is picked. They might even demand to speak to your supervisor.

How to deal with them: A yelling, snapping caller can be unsettling. However, you must stay calm and cool throughout the call. Do not get influenced by the tone of the call or get irritated. The key is to listen and zero in on the actual problem. Assure the caller that you can solve the problem. It is important to resolve the issue swiftly and efficiently. Avoid putting them on long holds or transferring them back and forth. This can only complicate the situation further.

The Threatening Caller: This is the aggressive customer who threatens to leave your brand. They are clearly angry and want their issue to be solved before everyone else’s. They want priority treatment. They demand an immediate resolution or else. They are enraged because something about your product or service was not to their liking.

How to deal with them: You must avoid responding to their outbursts in an emotional or agitated manner. Stay calm. Steer clear of any arguments. That will only exacerbate the situation. Let the customer pour out their heart and regain composure. Then, apologise, show empathy and offer an appropriate solution. Be friendly and show understanding. Throw in a coupon or discount, if the situation warrants it.

The Chatty Caller: These callers eat into your time, going over the same points repeatedly. They affect productivity and make you lose track of the call. They lengthen calls unnecessarily and this means getting other customers queued up.

How to deal with them: Get control of the call. Step in without sounding gruff. Narrow down on the actual issue at hand, and ask closed questions that will elicit a yes or no answer. Paraphrase what they say to know if you have understood the issue. If the caller digresses, politely bring them back on track to focus on the problem.

Keep calm and carry on

Customer interactions are important in order to make things right and improve relationship with them. Happy, satisfied customers return to brands that provide good customer service.

Keep calm and carry on
Photo: Fizkes, BS

These general guidelines will ensure happier customer interactions:

Listen actively: Pay attention to the customer’s complaints. Listen carefully to understand what went wrong. Do not argue or rationalize the situation, no matter whose fault it was. Let the customer go over the entire problem.

Focus on the situation: Keep your emotions out of it.  Ask questions to clarify the situation. Do not make assumptions. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is or if the customer is directing unfair criticism at you. View the problem objectively and try to arrive at a solution.

Repeat their concerns: Paraphrasing the complaints or requests can help understand whether you are on the right track. It will help you narrow down the issue, thereby, arriving at a more specific solution. Go over the steps you propose to do and make sure it is done.

Keep it friendly: Speak in a calm, friendly, receptive tone. You should sound approachable and in control. Lower your voice.

Use empathy: Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will help you understand their situation better. You will get a better grasp of their concerns when you look at it from their perspective.

Don’t take it personally: Always remember that the customer is directing their emotions towards the brand that you represent. When you remove your emotions from the picture it will be easier for you to deal with the caller more objectively.

Don’t let your emotions overcome you: This can affect the way you think and respond. Do not get influenced or irritated by the caller.

Follow up!: After you resolve an issue, a follow up would be in good order. This is a proactive step that will send a message to the customer that your brand is genuinely interested in delivering a good customer experience.

Standard rebuttal techniques may not work always: And so, tailoring your responses according to each caller type will help you close the call in a positive manner.

Everyone has bad days. Today’s Angry Caller may turn to be tomorrow’s Happy Caller. The key is to deal with each interaction separately. Ultimately it is all about making thing right for the customers and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

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