Managing Irate Callers

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irate and frustrated callers can ruin agent productivity, cause agent and customer churn, and negatively impact your customer service costs.

Unresolved or reoccurring problems, technical confusion, increases in billing, and difficulty in navigating to support, create customer frustration.  Frustrated customers feel as though you are their adversary. Does letting them vent their frustration improve loyalty, corporate reputation, and profitability?

There is a good deal written about best practices in handling irate or frustrated callers. The H.E.A.T. method is a popular approach for managing irate customers.

Hear them out 



Take responsibility for action

This method lets callers 'vent' until they lose steam. Then suggests that agents express empathy with the caller's frustration using statements like "I understand how you feel, I'd be frustrated too." or "I completely understand and if that happened to me, it would make me very upset"

Extracted from Orgwide Services Blog. 'Handling Customer Complaints Means Taking the H.E.A.T'. Written by Jim Hartiga

In our experience, it is counter-productive to allow callers to vent their anger or frustration and empathizie with it.

Here's why...

Corporate Reputation suffers. Expressing negativity is self reenforcing NOT dissipating. Expressed anger is fixed in memory ready to be recalled and reanimated. Empathizing validates and reenforces the emotion. It prolongs focus on the emotion rather than moving forward to a collaborative solution.

Agents suffer. Receiving negativity causes release of stress hormones, causing an increase of heart rate, blood pressure, and propensity to fight or flee. Stressors drain the body of energy, reduce mental resiliency, weaken the immune system, and can cause a range of other psychological problems. Developing a 'Thick Skin' is counter productive because it creates an 'negative distance' between the caller and agent.

Business suffers. Irate calls take more time if not managed effectively. Agent performance suffers on subsequent calls... especially empathetic agents. If not handled correctly, Agent turn-over is effected by exposure to irate callers.

D.E.E.P Tactics - Collaborative Solutions, an alternative approach.





Defuse. It's important not to confront, disagree or argue with any caller, irate or otherwise. 

Caller's will usually announce their frustration at the beginning of the interaction. It's easy to break into, and defuse, a negative diatribe with a simple neutral statement, such as '"Okay...", "I See...", "Alright...".etc.. The point here is to stop the negative momentum and keep it from igniting any pent-up frustration and anger.

Engage. Create an alliance. "Is it alright if I make some notes so that you and I can get this situation resolved? With your help, I promise that I will do my best to solve the problem, or get someone involved who can. This is the collaborative approach to problem resolution.

Explore. Once the adversarial interaction is metamorphosed into a collaborative exchange, it becomes possible to refocus the interaction and mutually explore solutions.  Use directed probes to Classify (Billing, Technical, Service Delivery, etc.), and Clarify the caller's concerns. With complex problems see if a root cause can be established.

Propose. Restate the issue, propose a solution, get agreement, commit to a timeframe and compensation (as appropriate). Then move forward to a resolution.

Call Intelligence Inc specializes in transactional analytics and intelligence. We have over 23 years of experience working on projects for the public and private sectors. We study voice interactions to determine which transactional structures, techniques, and tactics work best.