Monday, January 19, 2009

Customer Service Techniques you can use when the Customer Swears or Yells on you. How to handle difficult customers more effectively.

When the Customer Swears or Yells on you

It is important to know how to handle derailing customer rants, or inappropriate behavior. You'll see what Approaches/Techniques can be used for this purpose.

Techniques/Approaches you can use:
 Distraction (1)
 Empathy Statements (2)
 Finding Agreement Points (3)
 Refocus (4)

Conversation Example:
The customer is upset because he received a parking ticket that he feels is unwarranted. He visits the town clerk (which is where tickets are paid), and starts to yell and swear at the clerk at the counter.
Customer: What the [ooo] is going on here. One of your stupid meter maids gave me a ticket for parking near a hydrant and I wasn't within ten feet of the goddamn thing. I'm not paying this thing, and I want you to cancel the [oo] thing now. I have children to take care of and a job where I don't get paid if I'm not there, so don't waste my time here…[customer appears to be starting a long rant without stopping]
Employee: How many children do you have. (1)
Customer: Well, three. What does that have to do with my [ooo ticket]?
Employee: I know it's a challenge enough to have to take care of children and go to a job everyday. (2)
Customer: Damn right it is.
Employee: Yes. It is. (3) Let's go back to the ticket, to see what we can do to provide you with an avenue to appeal. (4)
Customer: OK.

In this situation the employee uses Distraction—specifically a technique called "topic grab" (1). It is used to try to derail an angry customer by providing an unexpected response. In this situation, the employee "grabs" the reference to the customer's concerns about childcare, and asks the customer how many children he has. When the customer responds with a specific and short response, control of the conversation returns to the employee.
The employee responds with an empathy statement (2), followed by finding an agreement point. (3) Notice the artistry involved in creating a point of agreement. In (2) the employee offers an empathy statement, which the customer agrees with. In (3), the employee reaffirms the agreement, creating a sense that the customer and employee are on the same side.
Finally, the employee makes the transition from dealing with the customer's angry feelings, to dealing with the specific issue of the ticket and what the customer can do. This is done with a refocus statement. (4)

The topic grab must be based on something the customer has said. You can't choose something at random, but must use something the customer has referred to that really has no connection to the customer's problem. Your topic grab question or statement must be short.
If the customer refuses to answer your topic grab, and responds with something like "It's none of your business," then you simply agree with that response "You're right, it really isn't. Let's see what we can do with the ticket." If the customer responds, and then stops to let you speak, the technique has done its job. Then you use the opening to refocus.



  1. The trouble is that most of the time the customer yells because of frustration about the incompetence and arrogant attitude of CSR's...that's why customers yell because CSR's themselves don't really answer what the customer needs to know and CSR's don't really give out any help or polite assistance at all. It's mostly the CSR's fault who are not trained enough to answer and meet customer's needs in a polite, knowledgeable way.

  2. Sometimes I find that employees are taught more to pacify customers than to solve problems.

    Companies should understand that customers get angry because their problems were not solved. If the employee instead of solving it just tries to anger management/distraction it will be counter productive.


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