As a manager of Customer Service, one of the most important questions I ask when interviewing a potential employee is, “How do you handle an irate customer?” I hopefully will get an answer that is truthful and consistent with a good customer service person.

There are a few tips that we can use to help in dealing with an unsatisfied customer. I’m sure we have all been in some way, an irate customer! How we handle ourselves in dealing with the situation is one that needs to be addressed with common sense and professionalism.

First: Listen to your customer
If a customer calls in to complain they may not have intended to be difficult. It could be that the rep on the other end of the line is interrupting and voicing a negative tone in return. Listen to the customer and let them finish what they are calling about. You may want to jot down pertinent information while listening i.e.: name, company, and reason for the call. That way you are prepared to ask questions that show you are listening and determined to solve the problem.

Second: Show that you are Genuine
If you really listen to what the customer is venting about instead of tuning them out because of their frustration, you may be able to give them a better outcome even if you can’t solve their problem. Repeat what they have told you to show them that you listened and genuinely want to find a resolution. By repeating the conversation back to them, it will give them a feeling of support from you for their dilemma.

Third: Be up front with the Customer
There are some things you can’t do immediately to solve the customer’s complaint so you will need to let them know as soon as possible in your conversation. Like giving a refund; you may need to investigate the situation first. Let them know that you will give the situation your immediate attention and if possible, give them a positive short term resolution, such as you will give it your personal attention. If you can’t give them what they want, let them know what you can give them.

Fourth: Reaction time is important.
Irate customers want “on-the-spot” resolution which may be a challenge for you. Try to get the difficulty under control in a timely matter so the frustration doesn’t get worse for the customer. Even if it is an email letting them know you are working on the problem will help to appease them.

Fifth: Take a Lesson from the Situation
It is important to understand why the situation occurred in the first place. Was it just a difficult customer or has this happened in the past and maybe a closer look is needed? Look for the root of the problem and identify ways to change them. Even if it is you or your Customer Service team, the problem will continue to emerge unless dealt with.

We all have something to learn everyday and in some cases, it may be from our customers. They may have uncovered a problem that you are not aware of which in the long run will benefit you and your company by making it a better business.

Let them know that you appreciate their input and give them a discount! That is always a welcome gesture!!