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How to deal with hate and complaints on your customer service channels?

Andrej Csizmadia

Andrej Csizmadia

Last modified on October 29, 2020 at 12:28 pm

We know dealing with harsh words and angry complaints can be tough. We also know that being on the receiving end of these remarks is often inevitable. 

In this article, we’re going to show you how to handle hate and complaints that are received through different customer service channels. We’ll start with some general tips that can be applied in most cases, and then we’ll move on to discuss more specific channels. 

Let’s dive in, starting from the basics:

Learn to listen

How to deal with hate and complaints on your customer service channels?

This is the core value of effective communication in general. Imagine that you’re a frustrated customer. You call a company, explain the problem, and then a support agent asks you about the same things you’ve just described as though they haven’t listened.

Terrible, right? 

When you’re on the other side, you will know how challenging it is to stay focused and listen to lengthy complaints. Like it or not, this is the key to success. Listen actively and give the customer your full attention. It will be easier if you ask them questions about their experience and the issues they’re facing. 

Dig into the customer journey

Did you know that anger is a secondary emotion? In other words, there is always some primary emotion that triggers anger. For instance, it could be a feeling of frustration, humiliation, rejection, sadness, or fear. Anger can be a result of any of these. When we feel vulnerable and can’t manage a situation we may become angry, just like the customers you’re dealing with. 

Because of this, it’s always good to ask questions. Be curious about the customer’s experience and try to find out what happened. Use empathy, consider their perspective, and investigate the primary reason behind their anger. In this way, you’ll be able to find the core of the problem and take action accordingly. 

Moreover, after you find the main issue, you’ll be able to suggest an appropriate solution. The customer will regain their sense of control, which will help them deal with their emotions.

On the other hand, some people won’t listen to you as they can’t control their anger. When the customer is shouting  insults at you, there’s only one way to go about it:

Keep  calm

How to deal with hate and complaints on your customer service channels?

Remember that you’re representing a brand or a company. Most of the time, the hate is not directed towards you personally. 

Fight or flight is a natural reaction. You may either want to run and hide, or to fight back. Unfortunately, in this case, the best strategy is a bit more subtle. Anger feeds itself on reactions. Your power lies in maintaining distance. Take a couple of deep breaths before you respond, and focus on the facts. A good rule of thumb is to prioritize solving the customer’s problem instead of addressing their anger. 

Customer service professionals engage in emotional labor. This means they’re required to display certain emotions, even though they may be feeling something completely different. “Service with a smile” can be draining, even if you’re not talking to the customer face-to-face. Remember that you don’t have to respond in an overly enthusiastic way. Instead, try detaching yourself from the situation and remain neutral. Focus on the goal instead of the customer’s emotions.

Oh, and don’t forget about this common pitfall:

Avoid being passive-aggressive

It can be tempting, right? Even though it seems witty and satisfying, it won’t get you far when you’re dealing with hate and complaints from your customers. Instead, you’ll be risking the public image of your company by fighting fire with fire. 

Keep in mind that you might be using passive-aggressive language without even realizing it. A good customer service representative should be mindful of their tone. First of all, remember to avoid excuses. The customer doesn’t care who’s responsible for an error, they just need a solution. Instead of trying to come clean, try another approach:

Apologies go a long way

How to deal with hate and complaints on your customer service channels?

Once the customer expresses all of their complaints, it’s time for you to say sorry. Even if it’s not your fault, you’re the one who’s responsible for apologizing. 

A simple “sorry” acknowledges that the customer’s feelings are valid and that you’re aware of their inconvenience. When you apologize, remember that it’s all about the other person. Don’t talk about yourself, and don’t try to explain things. Just say you’re sorry and move on to providing a  solution. 

Act quickly

When a frustrated customer gets in touch, it means they’re in a hurry. The issue is burning and they need a solution right away. Make sure that the customer feels they’re being treated as a priority, even if it’s not necessarily true. It’s good to share expected resolution time frames and clarify the next steps. Again, this will make the customer feel that they’re in control of the situation. 

Offer compensation

Obviously, this one may vary depending on the industry. In eCommerce, it pays off to share a discount code or offer something extra for the customer. In this case, remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Ask the customer about their desired compensation, or offer at least two options. When they have a choice, they will feel much better about selecting their preferred option. 

Adjust your strategy to the customer service channel

How to deal with hate and complaints on your customer service channels?

We’ve been through the basic rules of managing complaints. Now, let’s have a look at how things change depending on the communication channel:

Private customer service channels: call centers, emails, live chat

Private channels have one significant advantage over public ones: the conversation stays between you and the customer. On the other hand, this may encourage angry clients to become even more offensive. 

In this instance, most of the rules described above apply. In many ways, it’s like having a face-to-face conversation, minus the body language. This is why you should pay special attention to your tone. Keep it neutral and empathetic, just like we’ve mentioned above.

Sometimes the customers may decide to follow up via different customer service channels. For example, they may get in touch via phone first and then send an email asking for more information. In this case, a universal inbox and hybrid ticketing features are incredibly helpful.

Public customer service channels: social media

Things work a bit differently when they are made public. Particularly angry customers are likely to share their views on your social media channels. The reasons for this can vary from wanting to display their frustration to attempting to ruin the image of your brand. 

In this case, crisis management skills come in handy. If you’re working with a dedicated social media manager, you might want to join forces. When you handle the situation successfully, it may actually end up working out in your favor. One false move, however, could lead to a disaster. Remember that if the customer shares an angry post on Instagram or Facebook, you’re moving from traditional customer service to public relations.

Key takeaways for dealing with hate and complaints

Great customer service requires a lot of effort. We’re fully aware that it can be overwhelming at times. The key to success is to reach a place where you can simultaneously maintain distance and remain empathetic. Although it’s not exactly easy to get there, we hope these tips will help you on the journey!

Andrej Csizmadia

Andrej Csizmadia

Growth Marketer

Andy is Growth Marketer at LiveAgent. Previously, he studied International Relations and Business Diplomacy and was active as a volunteer in the world's largest student run organization, AIESEC. Running, music and reading books are his favourite free-time activities.

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