The Contact Center's Guide to Handling Irate Customers


Handling irate customers is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of working at a contact center. To that end, managing angry callers through clear and effective communication is an essential skill every contact center team should learn. This is especially relevant given that on average, unhappy customers tell 16 friends about a bad experience they’ve had with a brand.

So, here’s our guide to managing three of the most common difficult customer personality types that agents might encounter.

#1. The Nitpicker

This particular caller is pretty easy to spot. Nitpickers generally don’t have a specific complaint that prompts them to get in touch with your customer service team. But they’ll usually have a long list of minor grievances against your product or service.

The frustrating thing here is that there isn’t a specific issue the customer wants addressed. As such, it’s nearly impossible to provide a definitive solution to their litany of concerns. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t take their concerns seriously.

For handling this irate customer, your goal is to listen and acknowledge their issue(s). Use phrases that acknowledge their complaints and communicate appreciation for their honest feedback. Make an effort to follow through on their complaints. Perhaps suggest an update call in the near future, allowing you some time to work on their concerns.

#2. The Legit Complainer

No product or service is perfect. That’s a fact. As such, you can expect to receive a certain volume of legitimate complaints. It should be noted that the legit complainers are among the most important customers a contact center agent has to deal with.

Customers with legitimate complaints means your product or service has failed to meet their expectations. They have every right to publicize their complaints and doing so could have major consequences for your brand.

That said, any agent that comes across this kind of complaint should immediately apologize for their poor experience with the product. This alone is a big step towards pacifying your customer’s frustrations. From here, find out what you can about their experience and create rapport by acknowledging their complaint.

More importantly, make sure that you take active steps to actually do something about their complaint. Escalate their complaint to your team leader, or inform the product manager, and follow up on what you can do to remedy the situation.

#3. The Abusive Customer

The customer is always right—this adage will always hold true, even in today’s modern customer landscape. Unfortunately, some customers tend to take this concept too far, as evidenced by many abusive customer cases.

Abusive customers are easily identifiable by the aggressive way they communicate with customer service agents, often with the use of profanity. To be clear, no employee should be expected to simply put up with customers hurling unwarranted personal insults because they were unsatisfied with a product. In fact, contact centers often have processes to ensure protection from client abuse.

In any case, contact center agents are often warned to expect these kinds of calls. Their biggest challenge at this point is to maintain their professionalism and cool amid such high emotional tension. In such cases, take a deep breath and try shifting the conversation to a more peaceful plane. You can calmly point out that while you understand that customer’s concerns, your company can unfortunately not tolerate the kind of language they’re using. This can help bring attention to their abusive language and pacify the situation. At this point, you can also acknowledge their heightened emotional state and suggest a follow-up call when they’re feeling a little calmer.

When handling irate customers, empathy is key. You want them to know that whatever their concern, you’re willing to listen and do something about it. It’s important their feelings of frustration are validated and that you’re committed to finding a resolution for their complaint.

If your company needs additional support to help ensure seamless communication between your contact center agents and your customers, contact us at Jive today.

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