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De‑Escalation Techniques for Angry Customers

Review effective strategies to de‑escalate angry customers in your business. Learn essential techniques to diffuse tension and foster positive resolutions.

Successful business owners understand the importance of good customer service. Providing customers with a high level of service increases satisfaction, making them less likely to complain about your business.

Modern consumers want fast resolutions when they have problems with your products or services. Not being able to provide them with these resolutions can lead to anger that can affect your customer service team's ability to effectively serve customers.

You'll often encounter unhappy or even downright angry customers when working in customer services. A good de-escalation strategy to deal with angry customers and customer complaints can right the ship, allowing you to build better customer relationships while fostering loyalty.

Even if customers have an issue with your product or service, good customer service can resolve it, helping you gain a valuable customer for life. But how do you deal with those angry customers that aren't happy with your resolutions? Keep reading to learn more about de-escalation techniques and how they can improve customer retention and overall satisfaction.

Before learning to de-escalate a situation with an angry customer, you should understand why customers get angry. Your business sets certain expectations with customers, either online or in person. Any time you connect with customers, you're setting expectations with them, whether they're clear or not.

For instance, your website might have information regarding shipping and delivery times. If your customers' expectations aren't met, and their delivery doesn't arrive by the time you said it would, they can quickly become angry or frustrated.

Remember, customers are spending their hard-earned money with your business, so anything that affects their finances can be cause for concern for them.

Common triggers for customer anger

De-escalation requires you to understand why your customers are angry. Most of the time, your customers aren't angry for no reason. Instead, they're angry because your business did something to make them that way. Understanding a person's feelings can help you find techniques to handle customer complaints and de-escalate situations quickly.

A few common triggers for angry customers include the following;

Speaking with multiple agents

Some businesses have multiple customer segments that may require specialized customer service. Retailers might have online and brick-and-mortar stores that target different types of customers. In these instances, it's easy for customer service reps to get confused and to be unable to solve specific concerns because they don't have the correct information. It's common for reps to direct calls to other departments or managers.

However, speaking with multiple agents can be frustrating for customers. If your customer has a complaint and gets the first email from another, then in the next correspondence receives answers from another, it can quickly become frustrating for them.

You have customer service software that helps you build customer relationships and track correspondence, but your customers don't know this. They prefer to speak to someone they've already spoken to before in hopes that that person remembers their conversation and can help them.

Going through multiple levels of customer service in a single call can also be frustrating. Your customers may walk to one person only for the call to be transferred several times before anyone is able to address their issues and complaints.

Lack of communication

Not so long ago, the only customer service available was over the phone, with many companies leaving customers on hold for several hours and keeping them in the dark about when they'll be able to actually speak to someone. Being kept on hold doesn't necessarily mean they're on the phone nowadays. Now, being kept on hold means waiting for a response.

For example, a customer might email your business or use your live chat feature. If they don't hear back quickly, they can get frustrated because there's no one available to answer their messages.

Inexperienced customer service reps

Your customers understand that you'll get new employees from time to time that need to be trained in customer service and the products or services. However, they expect you to take care of this training while you're not handling their complaints.

Customers want to talk to someone who is experienced enough within the business to be able to help them. If your customer service agents aren't trained properly, they should not be talking directly to customers until they are.

Multiple attempts

Customers expect resolutions immediately. If you cannot resolve issues on the first call, message, or email, they can quickly become angry or upset. There are very few customer complaints that can't be resolved immediately.

If the product arrives broken, customers expect either a refund or a replacement. Some issues shouldn't take more than one try to resolve, and customers are well aware of how other businesses manage these processes, so they will be comparing you.

Why addressing anger promptly is crucial

De-escalating angry customers is crucial because it will prevent the situation from worsening. When a customer is angry, your only option is to resolve their issues immediately. Angry customers are more likely to leave reviews on websites or public directories than satisfied customers, dramatically affecting your ability to attract and convert new customers.

Angry customers often feel like your business doesn't care about them, which only exacerbates the situation. By resolving their issue as soon as possible, you not only de-escalate the situation entirely, but you have the opportunity to delight and dazzle them, turning a bad situation into a good one that can result in more positive outcomes for your business.

Existing customers expect more from your business. After purchasing your products or services multiple times, you've set expectations with them, and they expect the same quality each time they interact with your brand. Not delivering can result in angry customers and a poor business reputation.

At the same time, the faster you resolve their issue, the faster your customer service team can move on to serving other customers. Angry customers can take up more of your time and contribute to high employee turnover.

If your customer service team constantly deals with angry customers, they'll start to feel stressed or even anxious all the time. However, de-escalating a situation and resolving customer complaints as soon as possible can make that part of the job much easier for them.

Learning de-escalation techniques can help you satisfy your customers and prevent them from having a bad experience with your brand. In business, you must accept that not every customer is going to be a happy one. There will be complaints, but how you handle customer complaints can set you apart from the competition.

Dealing with angry customers is part of running a business, but it doesn't mean it has to affect your business. Yes, customers will be angry from time to time, but it gives you the opportunity to improve their experience with your business.

If a customer complains that they haven't received their package, responding to their inquiry as soon as possible, providing them with updated tracking information, sending a replacement, or offering a refund can immediately reduce their anger because it demonstrates that your business cares about their issues.

Every business needs de-escalation techniques to help customer service representatives handle angry customers and customer complaints. A few ways to incorporate de-escalation techniques into your customer service strategy include the following:

Training customer service representatives

Customer service training is crucial, especially for new representatives. Anyone who speaks directly with customers on behalf of your organization should use active listening skills to show customers you care and are actually listening to their complaints.

One of the fastest ways to de-escalate a situation with an angry customer is to show you care. You can demonstrate active listening skills by repeating their issue and clarifying anything they said that you didn't understand.

In addition, customer service agents should display empathy and understanding. If a customer is having an issue with a product, the rep should be empathetic, listen to their concerns, and offer support. Customer care means caring for your customers, not just addressing and resolving issues.

Besides having empathy and being able to use active listening skills, customer service representatives should employ conflict resolution techniques. These include having a caring, compassionate tone, being neutral, and not reacting to angry comments. Instead, they should focus on resolving customer complaints as quickly as possible.

Establishing de-escalation protocols and procedures

Every business should have de-escalation protocols and procedures for handling angry customers. We've already discussed a few common triggers for angry customers. With these in mind, you can develop protocols that help agents resolve complaints even when customers are angry. You can use scripts and provide on-the-job training about de-escalation.

If an angry customer calls about issues with a product, customer service reps must determine whether there's an issue with the product or if the customer is using it incorrectly. Establishing de-escalation protocols here can help by ensuring your employees can troubleshoot common customer problems.

Providing resources and tools for effective de-escalation

Providing your customer service team with resources and tools for de-escalating situations involving angry customers can help. One of the best resources you can provide them is a script for handling particular situations.

Of course, they'll be responsible for personalizing these scripts based on the information they receive from the customer. Yet, they should provide your reps with enough information on diffusing a situation before it escalates.

Customer service management software can also help de-escalate angry customers behind the scenes. One of the triggers we mentioned earlier was long wait times or lack of a response when customers reach out to your business. Using customer service tools can make your customer service team more efficient and effective at de-escalating situations that might result in customer dissatisfaction.

De-escalating customer service conflicts can help you satisfy more customers. A strong de-escalation strategy can support your overall customer service strategy by helping reps learn how to deal with certain customers based on a person's feelings and their experience with a product or service.

Next time you deal with an angry customer, try these de-escalation techniques:

Remain calm and composed

When someone is angry or yelling, you should never mirror their tone or body language because it can escalate the situation. The goal is to de-escalate the situation by easing the intensity of their reaction or feelings. Staying calm and composed during interactions with an angry customer will make the business appear more professional.

You should try to avoid personalization of customer anger. Instead of concerning yourself with how a customer is acting or speaking to you, remain neutral and try to solve their problem. They're angry because their problem isn't solved, so the best way to reduce their anger is to find a resolution.

If handling a customer's complaint in person, you should always keep your body language neutral and respect their personal space.

Active listening and empathy

Active listening and empathy can go a long way in customer service. Your customers want to know your business cares about them. These individuals spend their hard-earned money on your products and services, so you should always give them your undivided attention. Acknowledging a person's feelings and frustrations tells them you understand their problem and want to help.

You should always use empathetic language and tone. We're not saying you should apologize for everything that upsets a customer, but you should be able to put yourself in their shoes to find the best resolution possible.

Effective communication strategies

Effective communication strategies can quickly de-escalate a situation with an angry or upset customer. Raising your voice if a customer is yelling at you is never good business practice. Instead, let them yell, listen to them, and wait for them to stop talking before you try to say anything. This strategy will allow them to collect their thoughts, especially after an outburst.

Raising your voice to customers or mirroring their body language will likely have the opposite effect and can worsen the situation. If you act equally as upset as your customers, they won't be willing to give you the opportunity to resolve their issues.

Instead, effective communication strategies like active listening and waiting for the customer to become silent before speaking can help you more easily address their complaints and work toward a resolution.

When speaking to customers, you should use clear, concise language and avoid any confrontational or defensive responses. This can be challenging for business owners who take great pride in their business. Being defensive only adds fuel to the fire. Instead, you should offer reassurances and solutions. Tell your customers what you're going to do to solve their problems, and set expectations for what comes next.

Problem-solving and finding common ground

The main reason why a situation escalates is that a business isn't showing empathy or offering a resolution. The first step to solving a customer complaint is identifying the root cause of their anger or dissatisfaction. If a customer contacts you, their complaint may be clear or unclear. For instance, they may be facing delivery issues, or they may not know how to use the product properly.

If you're unclear about what the issue is, you can ask open-ended questions and let them explain. Wait for the customer to become silent for a few moments before asking another question or trying to resolve the issue.

The main goal at this point is to collaborate with the customer to find a solution. You can offer them multiple options. If their product was delivered broken, you can offer to refund them or replace it.

Meanwhile, if they're unhappy with the quality of a product that you stand by, you can offer to replace it or give them store credit. In any case, you should have a clear returns policy on your website or in stores that helps them understand what their choices might be.

You may have to offer alternatives or compromises to de-escalate some types of customer issues. Even if your business doesn't offer refunds after a certain period, you may have to be flexible with some customers to keep them satisfied or risk losing them forever.

Timely follow-up and resolution

Customers want resolutions, and they want them fast. Providing updates and progress reports to keep them in the loop as to what's happening to ensure their issues are resolved quickly will ease some of the tension between them and your business.

At the same time, you should do everything possible to promptly resolve their concern. Having protocols in place for handling common complaints and answering challenging questions can be helpful because it means less time getting approval from the business owner or another manager just to handle one customer's complaint.

In some cases, you may need to offer compensation or gestures of goodwill when appropriate. Many businesses offer free returns and refunds within a certain period with no questions asked. Offering freebies, refunds, and easy returns can quickly decrease conflict.

Preventing future escalations

Analyzing the root causes of customer escalations can help you learn how to avoid them in the first place. No business wants angry customers. Luckily, there are several customer service strategies that help customer service representatives deal with upset customers before they become angry.

Enhancing customer support systems and procedures can help you avoid unnecessary altercations and ensure every customer walks away happy. Support your customer service initiatives with Mailchimp's CRM marketing software to help you manage and build customer relationships.

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