On the Customers’ Team

Customer service professionals have the responsibility of dealing with a wide range of problems and personality types.  The variety of attitudes encountered during a given day often ranges from mildly annoyed to completely furious.  When we are confronted with customers who are beyond angry there are usually two possible courses of actions: give them what they want or wait out the verbal tirade.  Hanging up the phone or walking away from a conversation is also a choice, but generally frowned upon unless the customer is being directly abusive.  One of my favorite tricks when dealing with angry customers is also one that is seldom used:

Remind them that you are on their team.

Customers who are exceedingly angry or who have just been denied a request may feel both defensive and confrontational.  They believe that they are engaged in a competition in which they are arguing for themselves and the customer service representative is arguing for the organization.  This is rarely the truth of the situation. In reality, the customer service representative has a strong incentive to assist the customer.  At times it may be appropriate to remind customers that your inability to grant their requests makes your day personally more difficult.  A possible statement could be:

“I would love to be able to be able to offer what you are asking.  I would very much prefer to not be yelled at.  My day would be much better.”  

Statements such as this have the dual purpose of identifying the customers inappropriate actions and making the method of conversation part of the conversation.  It reminds the customer that they are speaking with another human, and most likely not the one who has created their problem.   Do not be afraid to allow statements such as this in your difficult customer interactions.  Just be sure to focus on “I” statements as displayed above and not “you” statements – which are likely to increase a customer’s defensiveness.


“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

                                                                                                     – Bill Gates


Of course, it is always possible that making this statement will increase a customer’s frustration and yield negative results, but it was unlikely that the customer would have become more understanding spontaneously, so you have lost little ground.

What are your tricks for dealing with upset customers?  Leave a comment below!


About davidbernst

Hello! My name is David Ernst and you've reached my blog. I've spent my professional career as a teacher, customer service supervisor, and pediatric office manager.
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