Every time I train a new colleague and the time comes for them to speak to their first customer, I see the same look in their eyes: what if something goes wrong? I was recently asked if I know how to deal with angry customers instinctively or whether there is a “cheat sheet” with rules that we use. That got me thinking. There should be a cheat sheet. Wouldn’t that be great?

Customer support has changed since the time when agents were given a script and had to walk clients through a checklist. Everybody hates being asked to turn off their device and turn it back on and “see if that works.” That is not the kind of advice I call up and wait 10 minutes for. And what about when you have to give your customer details to every person you speak to? Every time you get transferred between departments. In 15 minutes, you have told the story about your broken TV to 4 different people. Nobody has offered a solution and it seems like the best thing you can do is go and buy a new one. And you are certainly not buying from these people ever again. Imagine if the first person you spoke to could locate your purchase very easily (after all, all our transactions are recorded, and you had the store bonus card, right?), listened while you described the problem, asked just the right questions to help understand more and offered you options. Imagine that. Well, it’s not that hard to do. It certainly is not as simple as that but if you know your product inside and out and have some empathy, there is no way to fail at this. I understand that knowing your product is no small thing. Neither is having empathy. I personally feel that this is one quality you either have or you don’t.

What we know you have for sure is an angry customer on your hands. It doesn’t really matter how this came to be; they could be upset because they are confused, or because you or your company made a mistake. It could even have nothing to do with you; they were having a bad day and not being able to print their report from your platform was the last straw.

I know I promised you tips but I will start with one piece of advise: no matter what your customer says, do not take it personally. It is not you, they are just angry.

So, let them talk. Let them tell you the whole story, with all the gory details and do not speak a word. Just listen. That’s what they want after all, to be heard. This may not sound like a tip at all, but trust me, it is. Keeping quiet when all you want is to defend yourself can be quite a task. But listen. Giving people a chance to talk is the best thing you can do. Once they have had a chance to tell their story, you will find that they are a lot calmer.

And now that you have taken the first step towards helping your customer, you need to be careful when you finally get around to talking yourself. The first thing you need to do is simple: apologize.

Apologize even if it wasn’t your fault. Apologize because you feel for your customer. Say the actual words.

“I am sorry you could not print the report when you needed it.”
“I am sorry you did not get the level of service we aim to provide to all our customers”
I am sorry

There are actual studies that prove that when people are given a refund WITH an apology compared to a refund WITHOUT an apology, the percentage of clients that are satisfied with the outcome almost doubles. A refund is given in both cases, it is the apology that makes the difference.

If you enjoyed reading this and want to know more, join me at the upcoming Support Driven Expo in Belgrade. Tickets are on sale now via Kickstarter. Come along to hear about angry customers and to find out what’s in our grab bag!

About Nancy: Many many years ago, a professor told me “You should always work with people, be surrounded by them.” You never listen to what older people say; I didn’t either, until I got a gig in a CS Dept. And I realized that helping people is what I should be doing. But what I REALLY want is to live in a world filled with happy customers, eat food that makes you skinny, and an easy-to-use cloning machine.

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