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Help Agents Manage Emotions During Difficult Customer Interactions

Let’s face it. The customer isn’t always right. Sometimes they’re not only wrong, but also nasty and loud. How do you help your agents manage their own emotions during these difficult customer interactions?

difficult customer

Tips for Helping Your Agents Keep Their Cool Even When It’s Hard

Focus on what happens in the first 40 seconds of the call

Have you ever noticed that the agents who consistently keep their cool have one thing in common? They nail the first 40 seconds of the call by showing up as an empathetic expert. They’re like a customer-whisperer calming the angry caller with their human connection and “I’ve got this” credibility.

The easiest way to manage emotions during a difficult call is to stop it from staying a difficult call.

Try it. If you have an agent who struggles to stay calm with angry customers, use your next coaching to listen to the first 40 seconds of as many angry customer calls as you can, and strategize what empathy and confidence statements would work best. It’s easier to stay in control of your emotions when you feel confident and competent in your approach.

Acknowledge the Difficulty

The best way to calm a customer down is to acknowledge their frustration. That works for agents too. “Wow, that was a really difficult situation you were dealing with.” “I’m sorry that the customer was yelling at you, that’s always so challenging.” When agents know you “get it” and appreciate the degree of difficulty they’re dealing with, they will feel respected and supported, and consequently, more centered.

Help them de-personalize issues

Consistently remind your team that a caller’s initial frustration is almost never about them. The customer is living their life, trying to do the best they can with what they have, and they just want their issue resolved. They didn’t wake up that morning thinking about the best way to call into your center and frustrate everyone or and cause a social media ruckus.

Help our team brainstorm best practices to de-personalize the situation. Care about the customer. Work to resolve their issue. But know that their anger is not about you.

Encourage them to name their feelings

This is a powerful way to lessen the grip of powerful emotions. When an agent realizes they’re feeling tense, upset, tight, or can’t breathe, encourage them to take a moment and try to name the feeling. Eg: I’m feeling scared, I’m feeling frustrated, or I’m feeling angry.

Emotions are there for a reason. They’re like a warning siren calling for attention. When you ignore them or try to push them away, they turn up the volume. Over time, consistently ignoring them can do serious damage. But when you name it, it’s like you’ve acknowledged the warning call by saying “I see you – thanks for alerting me.” Just naming the feeling helps it to move through you and loosen its grip.

Give them a moment after a tough call

I get it, the queue is backed up and it’s hard to justify an unscheduled break. But here’s the deal, high levels of emotion are contagious and it’s human nature to need a minute to recover from an emotional interaction. Even if the agent stayed cool during the call, they’re likely spent from the emotional energy it took to handle that call well.

The centers I see to this best, build a high-trust culture and give agents the discretion to breathe for a minute before picking up the next call.

Your turn

When your agents are feeling more frustrated than focused, remember that feelings have a job to do. By empowering your agents with the skills and practice to acknowledge their own feelings, along with the customers', you can help improve morale and the customer experience.

Leave us a comment and share: What is your best strategy for helping agents manage their emotions during a difficult customer interaction?