How to deal with an angry customer via the Contact Center

angry call center customer

Contact center agents are warriors of diplomacy. There’s no way of telling what type of customer they will service on the next email, webchat, or phone call. The written form is a little easier when it comes to dealing with an angry customer – a phone call is not quite the same situation. Customer service skills are vital to holding on to the loyalty of those who purchase your products or use your services. This is especially important when research shows that, after just one bad experience, 51% of customers will never do business with a company again.

So, here we’re looking at how to keep your cool in the face of frustration within customer service and still provide a faultless service.


In the omnichannel world of customer service, many people seek to answer their queries without picking up the phone. So, it is likely to be the more complex and/or emotive issues that are left to be resolved by contact center agents. In fact, 40% of people seek out a real person on the phone when they have payment disputes or complaints.

Pay full attention to all that is being said at the beginning of the call without interruption, often customers rehearse what they want to say prior to calling and it is important that agents give them the opportunity to fully express the issue – take notes if necessary – and highlight what points need to be tackled. Asking the caller to repeat their reasons for a call is like showing a red flag to a bull.

Remain calm

As a contact center agent, you’re a representative of your company. You need to uphold professional standards at all times, even if the person on the other end of the phone is behaving poorly. Take deep breaths, keep the tone of your voice as level as possible and choose your words carefully. It is worth remembering that it is often the situation or circumstances that are driving the customer’s reaction and not you personally.

It is in your control to keep on top of your emotions in this situation. Stress is caused by your reaction to a situation, not the situation itself. You may be concerned that you won’t be able to solve the issue or appropriately address the complaint. Have faith in your skills, exude confidence, knowledge, and professionalism and it will help to diffuse the situation.

Show empathy

Reassure the customer that you understand their situation and recognize their concern. Saying things like ‘I can understand why this is distressing’ or ‘Yes, that definitely isn’t right – let’s solve that together now’ will help to demonstrate that you’re both on the same side. It is important to reflect empathy in your tone of voice – it’s not just about the words, sentiment is key.

A good contact center agent will be driven by compassion which, according to the Zen Mind, is “feeling and understanding the pain of others and then wanting to reduce that suffering.”

By putting yourself in the shoes of your caller, you are able to identify with their issue and this may calm some anger and provide a more neutral place to move forward to solve the issue.

Avoid putting them on hold

Even though hitting the on-hold button is sometimes unavoidable, it is also a great way to tip an angry caller over the edge of frustration. One study found that it only took one minute of being placed on hold for a customer to end a call. So, try to stop it from happening if you can.

Instead of putting them on hold, keep talking to them – even if it is just to explain exactly what you’re doing at your end of the call, such as pulling new information up on your system. Painting verbal images help the customer understand you are fully engaged and working to resolve their situation.

Alternatively, you may want to consider having a call-back function within your system. That way, if you do need to keep a customer waiting, you’re not wasting their time whilst doing so. A poll found that 63% of customers would rather have a callback than being put on hold. Providing this element of choice allows the customer to retain a certain level of control in overcoming a tricky situation. It will also give them – and you – the time to calm down before you return to the call later.

Conflict resolution

Contact centers have their own rules in place on how to handle tricky customers and guidelines on what to do when this situation arises. This could be anything from offering a discount to rebuild customer satisfaction and loyalty or terminating a call if it takes too many turns for the worse. Ensure all staff are fully informed on these policies and are both willing and able to use them should it be required. There will be situations where the customer asks to be transferred to a supervisor, this should not be regarded as a point for conflict “they will only tell you what I did” but as a further opportunity to resolve the issue.

Contact center agents work hard – we know that. In order to handle call after call with skill and professionalism, a system and structure needs to be in place to ensure that procedures are being followed and standards are being met – or even surpassed.

This is where Quality Assurance comes into its own. Through mystery shopping, monitoring, coaching, training, and benchmarking we can get your contact center ahead of the game.

Contact the team here at BPA Quality to find out more.

Are you ready to make all your customer experiences excellent? So are we.

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