The job of a customer service rep is already stressful, and an angry or distressed customer can throw things into high gear. A study revealed the extent of swearing at customer service reps. It’s a big problem, and for contact center managers, it’s important to have a plan in place for training your reps to deal with a customer who is swearing or otherwise being abusive. Here are several tips that can help your customer service reps navigate the land mine of an angry, swearing customer.
Focus on remaining calm: The best customer service reps don’t lose their cool, but it can be hard to stay calm when someone is yelling and swearing at you. Provide training to your reps about how to stay focused during these difficult calls. Techniques include deep breathing, active listening to try to resolve the problem, and avoiding trigger words such as “no” or “won’t,” which can drive an already distraught customer further into a rage. If customer service reps can maintain their composure and not take the attack personally, they’re much more likely to de-escalate and resolve the problem.
Engage empathy and show you’re on their team: If customers are angry and feel that their concerns are going unheard, they’re more likely to begin behaving poorly. When this occurs, use phrases such as “I understand that you’re upset” and “I’m here to help you resolve your problem.” Actively showing that you care about them as a customer and that you’re committed to trying to resolve the problem can often help shift the tone of the discussion.
Draw a line in the sand: If a customer is truly in a rage, he or she may be incoherently screaming or becoming over-the-top abusive. There must be a way to redirect the conversation and protect your customer service reps. Teaching reps how to recognize that point and say something such as “I truly want to help you, but if you continue to speak to me this way, I’m going to have to end this call” can provide a firm boundary. Ending a call is an extreme measure and should be used only when other solutions can’t be addressed.
Take it seriously: While some people have bad tempers, generally, by the time a person is screaming at your service reps, the relationship is in peril. How have you failed? Look at the situation to determine whether a refund is appropriate or whether escalating the situation to a manager with more authority can bring a peaceful resolution. This doesn’t mean every customer should get what they want by being belligerent, but it does mean an angry customer is one you might lose—and it’s important to pay attention.
When a customer swears, it can be upsetting and offensive. Having a team of clearly trained service reps who know how to stay focused, bring calm to the situation, and manage angry customers is an important asset to managing your company’s most critical asset: customer relationships.