Friday, March 23 , 2018, 10:57 am | Fair 60º


John Daly: Taming an Angry Caller

The phone rings; you pick it up, and the voice on the other end begins screaming at you. What should you do? My first thought is to bite my tongue, stay calm and listen. Let the person vent and blow off steam. Don’t interrupt ... even with a solution before he or she tells his or her story. Don’t raise your voice. Take it down a notch. Speak softly to show that you’re interested in handling the caller’s complaint in a calm, rational way.

If the caller is a client and ranting about poor service or an unsatisfactory product, be patient, listen, use phrases like “I understand how you feel.” It’s important to empathize, never interrupt and always apologize. Why? Because that’s what the caller wants to hear ... that you are sorry for offering a poor service or product. However, avoid the words “I’m sorry.” Instead, use “I apologize.” Why? Because the latter has an air of finality about it.

Let the caller know how you plan to make amends. For example: “I apologize for the inconvenience caused. I will have one of our reps call you in the next 30 minutes. If you’d like to leave your number with me, I’ll call later in the day to check on the progress.” Always be professional, but let the caller know you’re not a pushover.

It’s all right to ask the caller to take his or her tone down a notch. Toning it down and speaking softly are the best defenses for tempering a bad mood. Also, slowing down the caller helps him or her think more clearly about his or her choice of words. I’ll say, “Would you please repeat that a little slower, because you’re running your words together and I’m not sure what exactly you’re trying to say.’”

Avoid doing anything to inflame an angry caller further. Most of the time, angry callers have legitimate complaints and have reached the end of their rope. Take the tack of being very empathetic with angry callers. They can sense quickly whether you are a consumer advocate or not.

If someone gets personal or abusive, caution him or her to stick to the topic and try to let you help.

Find value in what the person has told you. No matter what, there is value; this tells your caller that you see value in them and in their message. This, along with following other good listening skills, builds trust and respect, and reduces the fear that may be the basis for the outburst.

This is always a great opportunity to fix the problem beyond the client or customer’s expectations. When we go above and beyond what is expected, something interesting happens. The customer will often become a more loyal customer, and that loyal customer will share his or her experience with others.

So often it’s tempting to place blame on a colleague when dealing with an angry call. The customer does not care who made the mistake. They just want it fixed.

Using 4 Key Ps when Dealing with a Difficult Customer or Question

» Pause — Give customers a chance to get all their words out before you say anything.

» Paraphrase — Make sure you know exactly what the problem is.

» Probe — Ask more questions. Dig deeper.

» Provide response — Sometimes, you may not want to provide the response right away, especially if you know the customer won’t like the response.

The overall key is to respect the caller, listen and resolve the issue. Never escalate. The results won’t be pretty if you do.

Great Video Information

(Myra Golden video)

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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