How to Deal with Raging Customers: Customer Service Under Fire

What is it with negativity these days?  People ride your bumper until they can zip around you going 90 miles an hour, others yell, scream, and honk in bumper to bumper traffic thinking that by doing so the traffic will move faster.  Individuals even get furious when a server forgets to put creamer in the coffee.  I find it so sad that our culture thrives on negativity and conflict. 

Nevertheless, that is what we have to deal with especially if we don’t meet customer expectations.  Some consumers have been known to scream obscenities at company employees, cause property damage inside the business, some have even gone so far as to attack employees and managers—of course, that is on the rare occasion.  So, what do you do when your attempts at meeting customer expectations have failed and you have an upset customer? 

First and foremost, you need to listen.  It takes time for the rage to build so when a customer comes to you annoyed and upset on the first round, listen to their complaint and wait until they have vented.  Whatever you do, DON’T interrupt them;  that’s the fast track to escalating a bad situation to worst case scenario.  Once they’ve vented and cooled off a bit, they’re ready to hear you talk. 

Give them a summary of what you understand their complaint to be and double check to see if you have right.  Work with the customer to come up with a plan of how you will correct the problem and a rough timeline.  If you can correct the problem first time through, good job, you’ve retained your customer; but what if something goes wrong and they have to come back again with the same problem multiple times and the being upset escalates to rage?

When the customer starts to enter the rage stage,  that is the time for managers to man up and protect the employees.  Your employees have probably already suffered from a good amount of escalating complaints, your customer desperately wants immediate results, and you are the one person who can give both want they need. 

While the customer is still raging, go ahead and let them vent a bit.  Don’t criminalize them and break self-esteem.  They are feeling like they have been cheated so try to create a sense of fairness.  Every situation is different so use your best judgment.  Once you’ve gotten the situation under control, shower that customer the extra goodies along with what they originally wanted.  Understand that you will get some bad press out of the situation but hopefully, with going beyond the request, you can still salvage the relationship.

However, all the raging can be avoided if you get it right the first time, which is always a good company’s goal; but things go wrong, so when they do you need to be prepared.  Train your customer service staff on how to handle upset customers.  Hire individuals who have good emotional control and train them how to calm a customer.  Have an escalation plan that has a chain of command that deals with each repeat complaint from an unsatisfied customer. 

In conclusion, when it rains, it pours, so have an umbrella handy—aka always be prepared.

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