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Learning to deal with irate customers

If you deal with customers in any context, chances are good you've probably come across an angry or irate one at some point in your life. And when you have a pile of things to do on your desk that just keeps getting higher, the last thing in the world you want to be doing is getting an earful from an angry customer who just wants to vent.

But because your customers are crucial to the success of your business, it's important that you handle their complaints in a friendly and efficient manner. The following tips will help you learn to deal with irate customers in a way that helps you solve their problems:

1. Let them vent. A lot of times, customers will call without a specific problem in mind, they are just frustrated and are taking it out on you. They may not even know what the problem is. That's why it's important to let the customer vent. Experience shows that the more you try and argue or reason with someone who just wants to vent, the more worked up they will get. A customer who is angry and venting will eventually lose steam, and then you can get the problem solved and get off the phone. That's why it is so important to let them vent. Keep in mind that most times they are not mad at you; they are simply frustrated with a situation.
2. Listen. While your customer is venting, you will need to listen to get to the root of the problem. The faster you know what's actually wrong, the faster you can get off the phone. You may want to take a few notes as well, to refer back to. You can also find out what you think the customer thinks should be done about the issue. Sometimes this is completely unreasonable, and sometimes it's something you will be able to agree to.
3. Apologize/Sympathize. An apology isn't always an admission of guilt; even saying, "I'm sorry this isn't working for you," or "I understand your frustration," will help to diffuse a tense situation.
4. Paraphrase. You will also want to paraphrase the problem to make sure you are both on the same page with regards to the problem. If the customer agrees that your restatement is indeed the problem, you can then work on a resolution.
5. Provide a solution. Your customer will not want to get off the phone until they have some sort of resolution or promise of one. "I will have my manager call you back," is not a good solution. The solution must be something you can deliver on. You may just be able to provide them with something temporary, like a replacement part until a different machine is ordered, but that is better than nothing.
6. End with a verbal agreement. Make sure the customer is no longer angry when you get off the phone. Asking "Does that help?" or "Does that solve the problem?" are good questions.

Learning how to deal with irate customers is simply part of being in business. While it can be frustrating at times, it's important to remember that they are the reason you have a business. By letting them vent and addressing their concerns, you can keep your customers and your business.

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