Albert Hood, a member of SpareFoot’s ACE Team, says he generally lets cursing customers vent. “I try to interrupt positively when I can after that, and then figure out a way to change the tone and direction the conversation is going,” he says. “I finally offer the solutions that I can, and try to be honest about what I can do and where I may be able to send them to resolve their dilemma.”
No. 4: Be Firm
Sometimes a customer takes out his frustration on a customer-service agent by launching a “very aggressive and very offensive” tirade, Jordheim says. If that’s the case, PhoneSmart call-center agents respond with something like, “I am trying to help you with the issue. I am glad to help you. But I cannot help you if you continue to speak to me this way.”
If the verbal abuse continues, agents will add, “I am going to end the call if you continue to speak this way. Let me get a little more information from you and then I can help you.”
If that doesn’t do the trick, they tell the customer the call is being ended.
No. 5. Weigh the Situation
Jenelle Cottriel, another member of the ACE Team, said her reaction to a cursing customer depends on the circumstances. If the caller is merely using colorful language, she lets it slide.
“But if it’s meant in offense, I ask them to stop. If that doesn’t work, I start speaking quietly and slowly,” Cottriel says. “Angry customers are looking for more fuel for their anger, so they do want to listen. If you’re harder to hear, they have to listen harder and longer. In that pattern, fiery, curse-filled anger is much more difficult to maintain.”
No. 6: Grab the Reins
“For someone to curse at a customer-service rep, [he] generally feel like [he’s] being screwed over in some tremendous way, or has potentially gone through multiple channels already and feels extremely frustrated,” Willis says. “At that point, it’s about taking ownership of the problem and committing to solving it. Hopefully by telling [him] confidently that you will do your best to resolve the issue, [he] can relax.”
No. 7: Match the Caller’s Volume
“When their voice rises, raise your voice, but keep your intensity just below theirs. The customer just wants to know you ‘get’ them,” says Traci Brown, an expert in body language and persuasion. “After just a little time, you can lower your voice slowly and they’ll lower their intensity right with you and settle down. Then you can have a meaningful conversation and resolve their issues.”
No. 8: Emphasize Training
How to deal with irate people should be included in training for self-storage professionals, especially those who spend much of their time on the phone. The best thing to do is provide the best service from the get-go, says Austin Brandt, co-founder and customer-support lead at Chasm Health LLC, an Indianapolis company that helps consumers obtain their medical records. “Don’t screw up in the first place. If you’re a customer service-centric organization and constantly work to deliver an awesome experience, your chances of being cussed out by a customer are next to zero,” he says.
At American Mobile Glass, agents jot down details about over-the-phone complaints. Then, during a weekly meeting, the customer-service team reviews those situations. “Why did it happen? What could be done to prevent something like this from happening again in the future?” McKernan says.
John Egan is the editor in chief at SpareFoot, an online marketplace for the self-storage industry. Before joining SpareFoot, he was the editor in chief at Bankrate Insurance. The Storage Facilitator is a self-storage blog managed by SpareFoot and hosted by SelfStorage.com .