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5 Steps to Defuse Angry Callers

Just because the holidays have ended doesn’t mean people are any less stressed. And when people are stressed, they love to take it out on call center agents. But, fear not! This month, we're covering five ways to tactfully handle cranky callers. Read on for our strategies.

Step 1: Listen!

Sometimes, people just need an opportunity to vent their frustrations. Before you jump in to defuse the situation or fix the issue, just listen. While you're listening, take notes of important aspects of their issue as it's common for angry callers to go off on tangents. Good notes will allow you to handle the issue more efficiently once they've finished venting.

Step 2: Stay Calm

There's an old saying that you fight fire with fire. Actual firefighters beg to differ. In fact, if you allow yourself to sound agitated or angry, you will only escalate the situation further. Remember - it's not about YOU - they're angry at the situation. If you need to, take deep breaths to remain calm while the caller is talking, just don't forget to mute yourself.

Step 3: Repeat Information

Nothing demonstrates you care, and you were listening, like being able to paraphrase their issue and being their advocate. Apologies and expressions of empathy that are specific to the issue, like, "I'm so sorry that your shipment hasn't arrived yet, and I know that this must be very frustrating to you, especially since it's a gift for your niece," can be incredibly powerful tools to calm an angry caller down.

Step 4: Avoid Using Hold

Using hold and filling dead air have been previous subjects tackled here, but hold is particularly important to avoid when a caller is angry. Some might think they're being put on hold so you can complain about them to peers or that you're just trying to avoid dealing with. Instead, talk with the caller, telling them what you're doing at every step to solve their problem. If the issue is complex, let them know upfront that you'll need to investigate a few things, the detail them as you go.

Step 5: Make Them Happy

You may not have the authority to fix a particular issue, but you often have options. In July, I wrote about focusing on what you can do and it's worth repeating here. Figure out what options are available and explain what you can do for them. Reach out to a supervisor to see if they can do more. Thank them for their patience. And finally…smile.