6 Tips for Dealing with Angry Callers

    November 3, 2003

There’s no avoiding it: sooner or later the voice at the other end of the phone call will get nasty. Here are some simple tips to help defuse the situation.

1. Listen carefully. Stop what you are doing and focus your attention the caller.

2. Pause before responding. Interrupting will only fuel the caller’s anger. Wait two or three seconds before replying to be sure the caller has finished.

3. Be sure you get the caller’s intended message. One way to do this is begin your reply with, “If I understand your position,” then rephrase the caller’s point from your perspective.

4. Ask questions that need more than a “yes” or “no” answer. This helps guide the caller toward using a normal speaking voice. The longer the caller speaks, the more difficult it will be for him or her to maintain an angry tone.

5. Avoid using the word “you” near the beginning of your statements. Phrases such as “You need to…” place blame on the caller. Instead, use “I” phrases such as “Might I suggest trying…”.

6. Don’t say “I’m sorry”. This phrase admits guilt and may encourage the caller’s aggressiveness. After all, you’ve just shown that aggressiveness works! You can apologize for the caller’s inconvenience. You can regret that your customer is dissatisfied. But do not say the words “I’m sorry”.

Dealing with angry customers doesn’t have to be a battle. Handled properly, you and your customer can both hang up the phone with a smile.

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