9 ways to deal with angry/difficult customers in 2024

 "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."  

 - Bill Gates , Co-founder, Microsoft

To learn from interactions with unhappy customers, businesses—especially customer-facing teams—should be aware of how to handle them first. Handling unhappy customers is crucial as businesses can't afford to lose hard-earned customers in this age of excruciatingly increasing customer acquisition costs (CAC). Neglecting them wouldn't just be a revenue loss—it could also snag their reputation.

In this article, we'll discuss 9 tips to handle unhappy customers and how customer-facing teams can take references from them and make them stay with your business.

9 tips on how to handle unhappy customers

To give a 360-degree understanding and for the ease of practicing the tips to the customer-facing teams, we've split them into three segments.

1) Tips to cultivate the right mentality

2) What to do when you're facing unhappy customers

3) Follow-up actions

Cultivating the right mentality

Tip 1: Don't assume, don't judge

The customer support teams need to practice approaching queries objectively instead of bringing their own views that might indirectly and unconsciously nudge them to assume or judge that the fault is with the customer.

Subjective views force us to have tunnel vision on issues and may distract support personnel from exploring all the available options to help customers. While facing unhappy or angry customers, objectivity will prepare the agent mentally to listen to their queries and take the next step.

At times, even experienced support personnel will take the unhappy/angry moments with the customers personally. They'd have to understand that it's not because of personal hostility between the two. Having an objective view can help agents take it lightly and move on to the following tasks.

Tip 2: Be confident and sincere

To face unhappy customers, support personnel should be confident since weak, hesitant, and unclear conversations may fuel the customers' anger. Being confident in taking the call and being sincere in approaching the following steps will help customers trust that they have the right personnel to resolve the issue and help them return to their calm selves.

Tip 3: Do a background check

Suppose the agents have chat or email as the first line of communication with customers when an unhappy customer reaches out. In that case, they can dig a little to understand the issue the customer is facing before taking the next step. Instead of asking them to explain, agents can learn for themselves why the customer reached out. This'll boost the customer's confidence in your team that they're aware of the issue and will help them converse calmly.

This tip may not help support agents in all situations or businesses, as some of them might have to call as their first mode of communication, and they might not have the option to do a background check about the issue the unhappy customer is facing.

But there's a workaround to this. Zoho SalesIQ, the Engagement Intelligence, has a provision to add widgets to its dashboard. If your team is providing support to your customers with SalesIQ, you can add the relevant widgets, such as CRM, to instantly learn about the customer's history with you and so your help desk can see if there are any tickets with unresolved issues. You can add more widgets based on your business requirements. The dashboard gives your team a helping hand by collecting this information in one place.

Also, this tip applies only to returning customers. If it's a new customer, the agent won't have any information to do a background check.

While facing unhappy customers

Tip 4: Keep your cool, listen actively, and acknowledge their emotions

While facing unhappy customers, agents should try to keep their composure cool and attitude right, as panicking will break their confidence in themselves and the customer's confidence in you to resolve things. Having a clear mind helps to understand the issue the customer is facing and look for what to do next.

Also, while attending to such customers, listening actively is imperative. Agents should put themselves in the customer's shoes and understand that the product/service they provide to such customers is vital to them, and they can't afford it to malfunction. Of course, the agents will provide the solution. But first, listening and acknowledging their emotions will help unhappy customers calm themselves down and increase their trust in you and your business. Please proceed with the following steps only when you believe they feel acknowledged.

Tip 5: Use positive language and build trust

After acknowledging the customer's emotions, agents should use positive language to boost their confidence in your team and ensure their issues will be resolved. Reaffirming customers that their queries will be handled helps them ease and build trust with your business.

Tip 6: Switch mediums for better engagement

We've come across this scenario multiple times: email threads go to and fro between unhappy customers and the support teams for scores of conversations. It can make the customer furious and decrease their trust in your organization. It's also not a good practice to engage with discontent customers over email threads when they're unhappy with your services.

When agents see such scenarios in the making, it's better to switch to mediums that'll help offer quicker resolution to the customers. Instead of replying to the email, agents can share their custom email signature link and invite the customer to chat with them. It'll help provide a faster solution. If the conversation is over chat, agents can invite them for an audio call meeting to discuss.

Switching mediums can help diffuse the situation by breaking their momentum and giving agents the time to pause, take a breath, and proceed.

Tip 7: Set actionable plans, follow up, and deliver

If the issue can be resolved instantly, the customer will be happy and continue to go on with their business. However, if the solution can't be provided immediately, agents should clearly convey the customer's next step, as a lack of it can further confuse them.

Set the next actionable plans with the dates on which the customer can expect results. It doesn't end with setting the plans; the agents must follow up on those dates. Also, be honest about the ETA. It might be tempting to give unhappy customers a short ETA to convince them for now, but it'd completely break their trust in your organization if you can't deliver on time. So, giving them an achievable ETA and following up with them on the said dates are essential.

Follow-up actions

Tip 8: Update resources and FAQs from prior engagements

After the conversation, customer-facing teams should make it a habit to check their existing resources to see if the customer's query was addressed or not. If not, updating the FAQs and knowledge base articles will help the other customers, too, as they could consume them as a part of self-service and try to resolve the issues.

Tip 9: Have the best platform to assist customers

The final tip isn't for customer support teams but for the businesses that rely heavily on these support teams. As a business, it's your responsibility and benefit to give your teams the best tool to help them navigate the murky roads ahead to deliver a better support experience that helps them easily handle unhappy customers.

Here's how Zoho SalesIQ assists your organization and your teams.

How SalesIQ can help handle unhappy customers

Zoho SalesIQ is a customer engagement platform that helps businesses open a line of communication to their customers throughout their journey with them. Catering to marketing and sales departments, SalesIQ is an omnichannel platform for handling queries for your customer support teams.

  • SalesIQ houses a zero-code bot builder through which teams can build powerful bots to be deployed as their first line of communication. With bots, the first response time will be in mere seconds, and the flow can be customized to greet, interact, and collect basic information from unhappy customers.

  • With our Answer Bot, your resources, FAQs, and knowledge base articles can be integrated, and the bot will share the solutions to the customers' issues so that they can resolve themselves. The bot will hand the conversation to the available agent for resolution if they cannot.

  • If agents feel the customer isn't able to convey their issues clearly over chat, SalesIQ has a zero-setup audio calling option built within the interface. They can call the customers directly to understand the issue and provide a resolution.

  • To take it up a notch, the built-in screen share option lets agents either ask the customer to share the screen and convey the solution or take control of their screens and do what is necessary themselves.

  • SalesIQ has all these features to help support agents deal with unhappy customers and provide faster resolution. But sometimes, it'll not be enough, and some customers might cross the verbal limit. To protect your customer-facing teams in those scenarios, SalesIQ has a profanity management option to block the chat if the customer uses derogatory words. The agents will also get an option to block the IP of such customers if needed.

Like to see how SalesIQ fares in action and sit with your customer-facing teams? Sign up now for a free 15-day trial—no credit card needed.

Related resources:

9 key elements of good customer service in 2024

key elements of good customer service


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