A common mistake I hear customer service professionals make when I perform quality checks is ignoring the customer’s expression of anger.
There is something known as the communication chain. When people communicate, they expect the person they are communicating with to respond or react…this response is a link in the communication chain. A failure to respond to communication leaves the communication chain broken.
For example, If I open a customer service training with “Good morning!”…and the audience is dead silent, they’ve broken the communication chain. And that leaves me feeling awkward, perhaps embarrassed. I’d have the uncomfortable feeling that the workshop would not go well, based on the lack of acknowledgement.
If a customer expresses anger and we fail to respond to it, the communication chain is broken and the customer feels like they are not getting through. The customer might become even angrier and more difficult, as they are resorting to whatever it takes to feel heard and understood.
You can keep your angry customers from getting angrier by linking the communication chain. You link the chain by acknowledging anger.
Respond to anger with a statement like, “Clearly you’re upset and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” This statement assertively addresses anger – without making the customer even angrier.
Now that the anger has been acknowledged, you have completed the communication chain. Had my audience in our example replied in unison, “Good morning” the communication would have been linked and I would have moved on feeling great about the training day. When you link the communication chain with unhappy customers, they feel acknowledged and they are more likely to move on.
Here are some phrases that you can use to help you acknowledge anger:
“I can understand how frustrating it is when …”
“We want to get to the bottom of this just as much as you do.”
“I realize how complicated it is to …..”
“I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to …..”
“I know how confusing it must be when …..”
“This is no more acceptable to us than it is to you.”
Don’t ignore a customer’s emotion of anger and don’t attempt to tiptoe around emotion. Acknowledge your customer’s emotions. When you do, you’ll link the communication chain and you’ll have a better chance of controlling the conversation and moving the interaction to closure.
This tip is taken from Myra Golden’s famous Verbal Aikido training. Learn more about this training here or Download a PDF brochure of this training description
Here is a 4-minute video on the importance of acknowledging customer anger that you can use to train your customer service team.