We don’t like to talk about it, but it happens more often than you’d think: Emotions run high, and a customer hurls an ugly, personal insult at you during a customer service interaction.
The insult hurts, it makes you feel angry, and it seems completely unwarranted. Even a usually level-headed person might feel unsure of what to do next or how to react.
When a customer insults you, there is a general plan to follow to ensure the interaction is kept as short as possible and can help ensure the incident doesn’t escalate.
In this post, we’ll talk about the actions you should take after a customer insults you to keep things under control.
What To Do If a Customer Insults You
Step 1: Let it slide (at first)
The first tool for dealing with customer insults in your customer service tool belt should be ignoring the insult to the best of your ability. When you work with the public, it’s important to understand and remember that everyone can experience momentary lapses in control or can be subject to an angry outburst after a hard day. Try to be understanding and let the insult pass ‘unnoticed’ by you. Your patience could cue the customer to calm down and apologize for the outburst. If it doesn’t…
Step 2: Get some perspective
Realize that the customers’ insult is not about you at all. You don’t know this person, and they don’t know you. You simply represent a company that your customer is currently frustrated or unhappy with. You are the main point of contact and the insult, no matter how rude, is not truly personal.
Get some perspective before you react to a customer’s insult–keep your own emotions out of it, remain as objective as you can, and you’ll feel much better. Remember: “Lions never lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.”
Step 3: Always work toward diffusion
Even if the customer’s words have made you angry and you’d like to argue or exchange insults, don’t do it! Your goal during an interaction like this should always be diffusing the incident, not proving that you are right or making your personal opinion on something known. Outside of work, you might respond to an insult very differently, but on the job, it’s essential to work toward a solution and diffusing the situation.
You will be able to shorten the incident and increase the customer’s own satisfaction if you just work toward diffusing the situation. You can do this by sincerely apologizing, using active listening, and letting the customer know you understand. Will it hurt your pride a bit after taking a rude insult? Probably, but you’re tough enough to let it go.
Step 4: Stay positive
Ignoring the insult, diffusing the situation, getting perspective–none of these include being negative or giving off an annoyed vibe to the customer. Even when a customer seems angry, you should stay positive and offer them support through the interaction.
Your goal is to respond so positively, coolly, and calmly that the customer can’t help but be impressed by your poise.
However, if a customer personally insults you and you find it impossible to remain positive after such an insult, simply refer to step 5.
Step 5: End the exchange
If your positive and diffusive tactics just aren’t working, you need to move toward ending the exchange. Be firm but polite, never rude or dismissive. It is possible to end the exchange immediately without further rousing the customer’s anger.
You can say something like, “I understand how upset you are. I would like to transfer you to my supervisor to see if she can better assist you.”
You can say, “Would you like to continue this conversation over email?”
If there doesn’t seem to be hope of diffusing the situation by transferring the caller, or if the caller continues to be rude, you can say, “I want to help you find a solution, but we cannot tolerate insulting or abusive language. Please call back when you are ready to continue. I am now ending the call.”
— Conversational (@Conrecept) February 5, 2016