Luther Seminary - Handling Upset callers and walk-ins
Posted by Nicholas Schoob on 21 March 2019 11:58 AM

We are, at our core, a customer service agency.  As it is with all customer service jobs we are likely to sometimes have to aid customers who are angry or sassy because of the strain from the problems that they are facing.  To help you deal with such calls here are some things to help you out.

1. STAY CALM!! you can do this, and if you stay calm, it will help to calm them down as well.

2. There is almost never a need to argue, NOBODY WINS IN AN ARGUMENT.

3. It is easy to feel attacked when someone is angry.  Most of the time customers who are angry are not angry with you, they are angry with their product or with the extra strain that has been put on them.  If you can remind yourself of this you can help yourself stay in control of some of those fight-or-flight reflexes that can get in the way.

4. Often a client needs to vent when they are first seeking help.  During that time it is helpful to just remain quiet and listen.  This can help you get the core of what they are facing and it lets them know that you are willing to listen to them.

5. When they are done venting it is helpful to reassure them that their feelings are valid, while still trying to remain neutral.  Phrases like "I am sorry that you are having these problems" or "it is understandable that x would be annoying." It lets people know that seeking help and being annoyed are okay and that they are safe.

6. If a solution has not made itself clear in listening to their venting then it is important to gather more information but it is also important to  let them know that the situation is still shared and we still care about their input.  For this reason it can be extremely helpful to ask "is it alright if I ask a few questions so that I can understand better?" Or a similar asking for "permission" to ask them questions, this avoids them feeling like their time is wasted or like they are being interrogated.

7. If there isn't an immediate solution, then reassure them that you will do your best to resolve the problem as quickly as possible and then you will contact them.  Make sure to follow through on this and complete the task and contact them ASAP.

8. If you are having too much trouble with the situation, and you have a coworker with you, then ask if it would be alright if you got someone else to help with the situation.  If they say yes and your coworker is okay with it, then switch off.

9. If they are too upset to get their point across well, ask if they would prefer to continue the conversation through email, this is clunkier and whenever possible we would rather do it over the phone, but sometimes people just aren't in a place where they can talk effectively.  

10. If they become aggressive enough to the point where you are actually concerned for yourself, warn them that you will "not tolerate x behavior" and should it continue you will be forced to switch the conversation to email which can slow the process down.

11. If the call causes you stress or strain then take a little bit of time after for yourself.  Make sure to take a few deep breaths and get some water to drink.  If it continues to bother you, then don't be afraid to seek aid from a supervisor or coworker.  This is a time for you to speak with someone, debrief on the events of the call, and center yourself before going back to work.  WE DO CARE ABOUT HOW YOU ARE FEELING.

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