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How to calm an angry customer

We've all been in a situation where a frothing, angry customer is either in our faces our shouting into a telephone and we get either that helpless feeling or that angry feeling or both. What should we do in such situations? What should we do when a customer gets angry and starts taking that anger out on us? Let's consider a few steps that might come in handy in the future.

1. Remember, remember, remember (you've heard this a thousand times): the customer isn't really angry at you; you're just a convenient object for venting their rage at your company in general, at the world in general, and the cruel fate that decreed they not get their CD (or whatever) in the mail on time. A famous philosopher said that he never took offense at anger of this sort. Why not? Well, he said, I wouldn't take offense at a little dog that ran up and bit me. In other words, even though the bite might sting a little, it's just a little dog, doing what little dogs do. It's actually very convenient to think of an angry customer this way; they're not being themselves; their bestial side has taken over, and all you

2. Now, about that waiting it out. Here are a few suggestions: remain calm; even if you're boiling up inside, speak in an even tone. Be sympathetic, even to the point that you act as angry as they are that they didn't get their CD on time. In other words, show a little frustration at the fickleness of the universe along with them: "Are you kidding me? You ordered it when? And it still hasn't come?! What on earth is wrong with people these days," etc. This technique alone has been known to calm an angry customer right down.

3. If, however, the customer just refuses to be placated, and keeps on heaping abuse on you no matter how much you refrain from returning the favor, you may want to grab someone a little higher up on the food chain (say, your manager) than you are, explain the situation, and have him or her field the call. It's funny how people will abuse someone they deem a lowly telephone worker, while a manager (cue heavenly music) is a figure of authority and therefore someone to be respected. If a customer keeps getting angrier and angrier, and it seems that there's nothing you can do to calm them down, ask them if they'd like to speak to your manager, or anyone higher up the line. They'll surely say, "Yes!" And will have calmed down quite a bit by the time your manager (or whomever) gets on the phone.

4. Don't allow the customer's anger to keep you from doing your job. If you know of a way to help the customer, help him or her. Don't try to exact revenge by slowing the CD down even further. Be professional; do what has to be done; speak in a calm voice; and send the customer on his or her way.

5. As a last resort, there's no shame on hanging up on a customer if you have to. That, of course, is going to mean that some other poor fellow's going to receive the brunt of an even greater wrath sometime soon (maybe he's even sitting next to you); but if you feel as though your choices are either (a) stay on the phone and tell the person to burn forever you know where, or (b) hang up and not endanger your job, choose (a).

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