How to De-escalate a Customer Over the Phone

by Keith Evans; Updated September 26, 2017

Every business eventually experiences an upset customer who becomes increasingly irate over the phone. Though these situations are always a little uncomfortable, you can use a few proven steps, along with a little sincerity, to calm the customer over the phone and create a considerably more positive experience for everyone involved.

Calmly Listen

Many irate and even belligerent customers just want their voices heard. They may feel, according to call center consulting company Sound-Tele, as though your company hasn’t listened to their concerns or that the company has heard the concerns and doesn’t care. Even if the customer yells or uses foul language, allow him to vent as much as necessary. Don't take the rant personally, though, or allow the customer’s frustrations to make you angry. To de-escalate the angry customer, you must remain calm.

Warnings

  • Do not argue with the customer.

Practice and Demonstrate Empathy

Customers get increasingly frustrated when they don’t feel like your company listens or cares, but you can turn this perception around by authentically empathizing with the customer. Try to envision how you would feel if faced with the customer’s same situation without your inside knowledge of processes and procedures. Repeat the primary complaints back to the customer; this process ensures you understand correctly while assuring the customer you were listening. Use a sympathetic tone during this process.

Tips

  • If you would also become angry or upset when faced with the same circumstances, according to the customer service website Retail Customer Experience, feel free to say so. Your customer will appreciate your empathy, and commenting on how broken processes would frustrate you helps the customer make a human connection with your company.

Apologize and Offer Solutions

If a broken process or company fault is at the root of the customer’s frustration, apologize for it. A sincere, genuine apology for the customer’s experience and the issues that caused that experience can go a long way toward de-escalating the customer, according to call center consultants at Velaro. After apologizing, get to work on actively fixing whatever went wrong to make the customer upset.

Tips

  • Simply asking the customer what you can do to make the experience better or to improve the situation can help the customer view you as a partner or advocate rather than a company adversary, according to Forbes.

Mean It

Make good on any promises you extend to the customer. If you cannot personally provide the solutions you offer, advise the customer that you will follow up in a few days to make sure her expectations were met. This personal follow-up reassures the customer that your company values her input and that someone is accountable for improving the experience.

About the Author

Keith Evans has been writing professionally since 1994 and now works from his office outside of Orlando. He has written for various print and online publications and wrote the book, "Appearances: The Art of Class." Evans holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication from Rollins College and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration in strategic leadership from Andrew Jackson University.