Conflict with callers can’t always be avoided. That’s why learning the proper phone etiquette and conflict resolution techniques can help ease the tension created when conflict with callers does arise. Being prepared with a step-by-step process to diffuse the situation is the only way to successfully approach conflict with callers.
Serious conflict on the phone can result in the loss of a customer, but if you know the right actions to take when it occurs, you can prevent this from happening.
Phone Etiquette 101: Conflict with Callers
Handling conflict with callers is not easy and it can’t be done on the fly. If you try to handle conflict with a caller the same way you’d handle conflict with a friend or spouse, you could end up losing a customer or worsening the situation. The goal when conflict occurs with callers should always be diffusing the situation, not being right or “winning” an argument.
At the first sign of conflict, it’s wise to slip into a calming tone of voice while speaking at a normal volume. Under no circumstances should you raise your voice, even if the caller is shouting at you. Below, we’re including several examples of conflict scenarios customer service representatives might face.
The conflict: Something’s wrong with this product
You aren’t in charge of the product quality at your business (unless you’re also the owner), but you will field the calls from dissatisfied customers who say something is wrong with the product they’ve received. They may be angry when they call because they’ve paid money for something that isn’t working properly.
The conflict: Your company cheated me
Customers who’ve paid for something they haven’t received yet, found that an item wasn’t what it was advertised to be, ended up with a different product than they purchased, or otherwise feel cheated by your company may call customer service with the intention of telling someone off in order to get things “fixed.”
The conflict: There’s no way I owe this much
A particularly expensive bill, a new charge or fee, a change in your pricing, or oversights that result in additional charges can easily cause conflict with a caller. Money is a very personal matter, and when one’s wallet is at stake, things can get ugly fast.
The conflict: I need answers right now
A customer who has been struggling to find answers or solutions so far and has reached the end of their rope can be a source of conflict. When someone calls customer service and they’re already frustrated at a lack of proper or acceptable solutions, they will show that frustration and the exchange can turn into conflict.
How to respond to conflict with callers
Luckily, your actions are not determined by a customer’s actions. You can remain calm, professional, and polite during conflict and difficult situations. If anything, it’s easier to remain calm on the phone with an angry caller than in personal conflict situations because you can continually remind yourself that the person is not upset at you specifically – you’re just the person who happened to pick up the phone.
Knowing it isn’t personal isn’t enough to keep the call from derailing, though. Take the following steps to diffuse conflict and get back to finding solutions.
- Stay calm – don’t condescend or act annoyed
- Listen for the real problem amid the conflict
- Show empathy and understanding
- Be proactive in finding solutions
- Remind the caller that the call is being recorded for quality purposes
- If necessary, end the exchange or transfer the caller to a supervisor