How to empathise with angry customers

Stephen was a customer support officer in a large software company. Years of listening to customer complaints had taken their toll. He was losing patience with his customers.

After a heated conversation with a customer led to a complaint, Stephen’s supervisor enrolled him in my course Handling Difficult Customers. In the first half of the course, we discussed the importance of showing empathy when customers experience problems. Stephen asked “Why should I show empathy when the customer is swearing at me?”

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Dealing with irrational customers on the phone

Mina can feel her blood pressure rising. The customer on the end of the phone is getting angrier. Mina needs to make things right.

Here’s how we’d help Mina deal with this problem. You can use the same strategies when handling difficult phone calls from your own customers.

Verbalise nonverbals

The nonverbal ways Mina shows she’s listening when face-to face – body language, nodding, eye contact –aren’t much use on the phone. Mina must use her voice as a verbal equivalent of these visual signals. Saying things like ‘OK’, ‘I understand’, or ‘uh-huh’ regularly will tell her customer that she’s listening.

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