10 De-Escalation Techniques to Calm Down Even the Angriest Customers

We've all been there; dealing with angry customers can be a tough ask – often fraught with several thorny conversations

10 De-Escalation Techniques to Calm Down Even the Angriest Customers - CX Today News
Loyalty ManagementInsights

Published: February 23, 2024

Anwesha Roy - UC Today

Anwesha Roy

But then, this is a skill set that you simply have to pick up. Remember, no matter how hard you try to provide exceptional customer service, things can, and sometimes will, go south.

In this article, we’re going to explore 10 lesser-known de-escalation techniques that can make you a true expert at diffusing tense situations in contact centers.

1. Ignore the angry words

When faced with an angry customer, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and react defensively. But here’s a secret: ignoring the angry words and focusing on understanding the “why” behind their reaction can work wonders.

Is there a recurring problem with your product or service? Did they have unrealistic expectations? Tune out any insults or personal attacks and instead try to identify the underlying issues that may be fueling their discontent.

2. Reflect the customer’s emotion

An effective technique is to reflect their emotion back to them using a simple “you” statement. For example, if a customer is upset because they received a defective product, instead of responding with a generic apology, you can say something like: “I understand how frustrating it must be for you to receive a defective product.” Using “you” statements helps create a connection between the agent and the customer.

3. Follow the script

Scripts are designed to provide structure and guidance during difficult conversations. They ensure that you cover all necessary points while maintaining a professional tone. So, when faced with an angry customer, resist the urge to argue and instead rely on your prepared script.

By sticking to the script, you avoid getting sidetracked or saying something that could further upset the customer. However, bear in mind that scripts shouldn’t be rigidly followed word for word – adapt them based on each specific situation.

4. Watch your tone of voice

Your voice has the power to either escalate or de-escalate the situation, so keep your tone of voice calm, controlled and non-confrontational. Speak politely, with a sense of composure and empathy. Avoid raising your voice or sounding aggressive as this will only further aggravate the customer.

By reframing the conversation towards solutions, and not letting things get out of hand, you create an environment that’s genuinely calming and helpful.

5. Ask questions

Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to provide more information about their issue.  Try asking specific queries like “Can you tell me more about what happened?” or “Could you please explain how this issue has affected your experience?”

Using probing questions can guide customers towards potential solutions. For example, if they express frustration with a product feature, ask them how they would like it improved or suggest alternative options that may address their concerns. This helps shift focus from anger and disappointment towards collaboration and redressal.

6. Reassure the customer

Let angry customers know that you’re on their side – this simple act of reassurance can go a long way in de-escalating the situation and building trust. You can reassure them by saying things like “Your feedback is valuable to us” or “We take your concerns seriously.” Offer alternatives or suggestions based on what they’ve shared with you so far.

7. Don’t be afraid to be boring

One of the lesser-known de-escalation techniques is to be monotonous and avoid making the customer feel like an exception. By maintaining a consistent (even monotonous) tone and approach, you can help bring down the tension in the air. This can help create a sense of stability for both parties involved. Remember that being monotonous doesn’t mean being robotic or disengaged. The goal is simply not to let their anger affect your own emotional state or change how you address their issue.

8. Obtain additional training

To de-escalate angry customers, contact center agents need proper training on common customer triggers and escalation causes. This could include long wait times, billing errors, product defects, or poor communication. By recognizing these patterns, agents can adjust their approach accordingly and avoid aggravating already tense situations.

9. Be an engineer, not a scientist – i.e., fix, don’t investigate

Instead of getting caught up in investigating every minute detail or trying to analyze why the problem occurred in the first place, focus on fixing it. Your role is not to conduct a full-scale investigation but to find practical solutions that can help appease the angry customer. By taking an engineering approach instead of a scientific one, you can streamline your interactions with angry customers and avoid unnecessary delays.

10. De-escalate yourself

Remember, de-escalation starts with you. When faced with an angry customer, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you have the skills to handle difficult situations and that you can find a resolution for the customer’s issue. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unable to handle an escalated situation on your own, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from supervisors or colleagues.

Agents who master the art of de-escalation are invaluable assets for any contact center. They provide poor ratings on CSAT surveys and preempt the risk of customer attrition. Even if the caller doesn’t find a perfect resolution to their problem, your ability to calm down angry customers will improve their loyalty to the brand and help cement the company’s positive market reputation.

CCaaSInteractive Voice ResponseKnowledge ManagementSentiment AnalysisUser Experience

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