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How to Listen to Angry Clients: The Secret Listening Skills of Customer Service Representatives
Almost all customer service professionals I know have been cussed at, ridiculed, called names, assaulted in some way and that’s just for starters. As much as you want to retaliate with an equally aggressive and explosive manner, you just have to control yourself! Yes, that’s something difficult to do, but it’s the professional way to handle angry customers. Darn, you mean I can’t wring his neck?
There are numerous skills needed in handling angry customers. However, none is as vital as listening. Yes, this simple skill you've used since you were a baby is pivotal in resolving concerns of angry customers. However, many customer service representatives have not matured beyond the listening skills of infants. OK, that’s a bit harsh but there’s some truth to that.
Focus on productive information
Item or service purchased
Cusses and curses
What client wants
Rants & raves
Listening Skill 1: Lock on and Lock out
Angry clients are emotional. This is something I know from personal experience. I've been called a dog, a pig, and some other livestock. Moreover, I've heard curses that I did not think existed. The whole point is that clients can get personal (that’s definitely an understatement). Before you take a swing at the client for such rude words or behavior, remember that emotions run high especially when the person is angry. So what do you do? Lock on and Lock out.
Lock on and lock out is simply focusing on important information and locking out those that clutter without value.
In order to provide immediate solution without having to dwell on the negatives, customer service representative MUST focus on important information only. The moment you let negative words affect you, you become ineffective.
Listening Skill 2: Listen Attentively
Give you full attention to the client. Remember he is already angry. Your undivided attention is a necessity since many clients can spew out words at light speed. You need to pick up the important details as mentioned above. However, you can only do this if you listen attentively. You need to pinpoint the actual concern of the client underneath the rants and raves – and the occasional splatter of spit that can rain down on you.
- Clarify details
- Ask questions
- Rephrase information given to you
For most part of my career in customer service training, I've been advocating active listening to resolve customer concerns. My basic philosophy is this: How can you provide excellent customer service if you don’t take the time to listen to what clients want?
Of course this is easier said than done. But providing unparalleled service is only for people willing to go beyond expectations. This is where excellent customer service starts.
"How can you provide excellent customer service if you don’t take the time to listen to what clients want?"
More resources on customer service
Questions to ponder on
- What was your worse customer service encounter?
- If you are a customer service representative how would you deal with clients throwing insults and at you?