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When you must deal with customers who become frustrated or angry for any reason, an ideal way to respond includes using empathy words. Expressing words of empathy shows your sensitivity. It lets the customer know you understand how he feels. Understanding the customer does not necessarily mean you agree with the customer. Customers want to feel you care about what say.
Acknowledge the Anger
Customers want to be heard. The ideal way to let your customer know you hear and understand their anger is to acknowledge it. For example, say, "You're right, it can be frustrating to read and fill out all of this paperwork," or "I understand how frustrating writing this down must be." You're letting the customer know you understand without necessarily agreeing.
Using empathy statements to refocus an angry customer's attention away from the situation can help diffuse the anger. See if you can find something the customer would enjoy or a situation that would benefit the customer. For instance, you can say, "I see that you are angry about the long wait for your car repair. Perhaps I can interest you in a loaner car, and we can call you when your car is ready."
When you apologize to an angry customer, you let her know you feel sorry she had to experience something negative or painful, whatever the case may be. Apologizing does not mean you admit having any guilt, but it lets the customer know you truly care. Apologize in a caring tone with empathy words such as, "I'm sorry you had to go through this," or "I'm sorry you had to wait so long," or "I am so sorry."
When an angry customer begins to swear, finding a way to calm the customer becomes priority. Listen carefully to what the customer has to say so you can pick out points with which you agree. Then you can use empathy words to agree with the customer, letting the customer feel you are both on the same side. This helps diffuse the customer's anger since the customer no longer sees you as the enemy. Say, "The crust does look a little dark. I'll have the cook make you another pizza."
If a customer crosses the line, becoming angry and abusive toward you, use empathy words and statements to set boundaries. Stay calm no matter what. For example, the customer may say something on the phone like, "Can't you do anything right, you stupid [bleep]!" You can calmly say, "I understand you're upset right now, but if you continue to swear and shout, I will have to end this call. It's up to you."
If the customer continues swearing and yelling at you, say, "I will end this call now. Please call back at another time." Then hang the phone up. You controlled the situation by calmly letting the customer know his behavior was unacceptable, giving the customer notice that you would be hanging up and inviting the customer to call back.
- "Perfect Phrases for Customer Service: Hundreds of Tools, Techniques, and Scripts for Handling Any Situation"; Robert Bacal; 2004
- Dummies.com: Winning Over a Difficult Customer
Chyrene Pendleton has been a business owner and newsletter editor for more than seven years. She is a freelance writer with over 25 years experience and teaches a variety of topics, including alternative health, hair care and metaphysics. Pendleton is a certified television show producer, radio talk-show host and producer, and a computer programmer with a bachelor's degree in computer science.