How to Use Empathy to Soothe an Irate Customer

April 12, 2018

Knowing how to empathize is incredibly powerful because it can allow you, as the business owner, to see the world from a customer's perspective. The key to empathy is putting yourself in someone else's shoes and allowing yourself to be influenced by their feelings. 

You may not always agree with the customer completely but showing empathy garners loyalty and reflects your willingness to help. As a business owner, how do you use empathy to soothe an irate customer?

What is empathy?

Customers often complain that business owners and operators don’t show enough empathy while dealing with them. Empathy is the ability to understand the customers and share their feelings. In customer service, empathy allows business owners and employees to recognize the customer's problem from their perspective and being genuinely interested in improving the situation for them. More than that, it is to deliver a positive experience to customers so that they continue to buy products and services from your company.

Empathy also requires business owners to show curiosity when it comes to understanding the caller, their situation, why they're really mad and yelling at you, why they are frustrated, and what the call really means to them.

Empathy requires you to listen patiently to the caller before offering help. It is quite possible that some problems may not have a definite solution. However, infusing the conversation with empathy improves customer satisfaction and demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in helping them.

How to recognize an irate customer 

It is important to pay attention to how a customer talks to recognize whether a customer is irate or not. An aggressive customer might use a loud voice with an increased rate of speech. Angry customers may start talking over you or even yell at you using inappropriate language. Such customers may be disrespectful to you and not listen to what you are saying.

Angry customers are inclined to make sarcastic remarks about you and your company. They might also have low enunciation, include long pauses and muffled words and phrases, or variate on their pitch. Passive-aggressive customers may sound appropriate in the beginning; however, as the conversation progresses look for signs when they exude unpleasant feelings in an indirect manner.

Steps to Soothe An Irate Customer

1) Make your customer feel heard and listened To

Let’s assume a customer didn’t have a positive experience with a customer service representative in the past because no one listened to them with empathy. Always listen to the customer patiently no matter what tone they use with you. If they get angry and yell at you, allow them to. This will not only provide the much-needed catharsis to them but will also help them feel that they have been listened to.

Show that you are listening to them by using brief verbal prompts. Use statements like “I can certainly understand why this is upsetting” to show the human side of the conversation. A customer could be distressed, upset or disgruntled but listening to them makes them more agreeable during the conversation and improves their perception of your company.

2) reduce Your Customer's anger

Never react to an angry customer because it may make the situation worse. Don’t worry about solving the problem instantly but focus on listening to customers. Rational arguments do not work when customers are angry. Research shows when someone vents out their frustration, they feel better.

Ask the customer to explain their problem in detail and pose follow up questions for more clarity. Questioning helps you to calm customers down and bring them to a state of mind where you can hold a reasonable conversation with them. When customers start explaining issues, their mind is directed towards the matter at hand than being combative.

3) Give them an opportunity to vent out stressed feelings

Many customers are not angry because your services didn’t live up to their expectation. Their anger could just be their inherent nature or maybe they are unhappy with their personal or professional life. Life stress triggers like bad relationships, financial woes, bad jobs and other negative feelings can leave a person dissatisfied, making you a safe target for displacing their feelings.

Yet, it is your responsibility to remain empathetic, and allow them to displace unrelated feelings too. This goes a long way in building a great customer support strategy because empathy isn’t about remaining immune to other people’s negative feelings but is about understanding why they may be upset. If they are upset because of your services, you can actually do something about it. If they are upset because of an unrelated issue, listen to them, and give them an opportunity to vent out and be heard.

4) Show genuine concern About Solving the problem

Never make an attempt to get rid of angry customers or worse, disconnect their call. Understand your customer’s complaints and assure them that you’ll do your best to resolve them. Respect your customers by acknowledging the problem no matter how challenging it is and take steps to get to the bottom of the problem.

Summarize the problem in your own words, in the end, to show that you understand the entire issue. Never judge the customers even if they appear to be wrong. Every customer issue, whether you think it is right or wrong, must be dealt with sincerely to illustrate that you have a genuine concern for them.

5) Use Empathy To lead to closure

Empathy is a powerful tool for complaint closure when your customer sincerely believes that you understand their point of view. Use empathy throughout your interaction with the customer to pacify them. Empathy helps you to avoid confrontation with the customer because you are willing to look at the problem from the customer’s perspective.

When you realize that the problem is genuine, assure them that the problem would be resolved within a specific time frame. This way, customers’ stress is released and they feel much calmer. This sense of calmness leads to closure, and ultimately improves the image of your company.

Empathy is empowering

Limiting your customer service to displaying sympathy is similar to feeling sorry for your customer’s problems but saying there is nothing you can do to help them. A customer calls you with a hope to get their problems solved. When an angry customer calls you, they do so first to express their frustration with your service before settling down to work with you.

Empathy shows your customer is being listened to which reduces their anger to a large extent. Empathy not only empowers your staff and your company but also the irate caller. It gives them the opportunity to release their pent-up emotions and ultimately the customer finds a closure. Remember, when dealing with an irate caller, your priority is not to be right or prove a point to the upset caller. Your priority is to acknowledge their feelings and find the best solution.

To make sure that you respond to your customers and clients with empathy always, hire an answering service like Abby Connect Virtual Receptionists. At Abby Connect, we take customer service seriously and treat every customer with utmost respect and empathy. To try out our no obligation 14-day free trial, fill out the form below. 

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