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3 Ways to Provide Success When Handling Rude Customer Interactions

by Laura Bassett

As I searched for ways to discipline my accident-prone, very determined, yet very sensitive and sometimes diva-like 5-year-old daughter, I had a revelation: Dealing with rude customer interactions in the contact center can be similar to this challenge.

As customers get more frustrated — whether it’s a product not working correctly, not reaching resolution, or any number of triggers — logic seems to exit the building. Emotions rise, and customers eventually want one thing: gratification.

However, there are ways to help both sides of the interaction, agent and customers, and it starts with your response.

Here are 3 ways to provide success in these types of contact center interactions:

1) Don’t Try to Win

Pick your battles and fight only what really matters — it’s not necessarily a fight for victory. Train your employees to expect the unexpected. Establish give and take with the customer, and use choices to keep emotions at bay.

When your employees are prepared to handle these situations, either with scripting, pulling from previous experiences, or using role-play training, their responses will become more effective and address the situation in real-time, hopefully leading to efficient resolution. A negative or impulsive reaction quickly can impact the company’s overall reputation.

It may feel like a power struggle with the customer. But before the struggle gets fully underway, act in a way to curb it. Take a deep breath. Then ask or suggest ways you could help.

It’s important as an agent to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and detach from what may seem personal. Remember, the caller doesn’t know you, and he or she likely was cross before you answered the phone.

2) Guide Rather Than Control

Offering choices is a good way to guide the caller to resolution in a way that passes the control onto them and that possibly brings them back to a more logical, less emotional place. Think compromise and cooperate.

With logical handling, both parties will know when the right resolution has been reached.

Be sure your employees understand your guidelines for acceptable resolutions as well as their spheres of influence — and when the interaction may need to be escalated. Sometimes customers will ask to engage a manager, and the appropriate response should be to let them.

3) Build Healthy Relationships

Keep your relationship healthy. This kind of customer obviously is trying to get your attention, and he or she is trying to get you to engage. But remember: The customer’s motivation is desperation, not spite or malice.

If an error has been made, then by all means apologize and explain the error. Your actions will set the tone for the ongoing relationship with this customer.

Be aware that you can benefit the customer while being fair and true to your business. However, sometimes we have to know when to dig in our heels. When the customer needs clarification on a key issue, or needs correction about the situation, you need to help your agents understand how to convey their message and know they are empowered to have the right conversations and make decisions for the best experience.

Ask yourself how you would like to be treated. Use this guideline to set the model for behavior.

All of your customers deserve your best response. The faster the resolution, even in the most unpleasant circumstances, the better the outcome. The more proactive and pleasant your agents can be will help complete the interaction with both parties satisfied.

Are you focused on customer experience? Do you have the right tools for optimal delivery?

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