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Dealing with angry callers

Dealing with angry callers is something every receptionist and account manager will do in their career.

While I was doing research on telephone etiquette (for chapter three of The New Receptionist), I asked a number of receptionists and assistants from various industries what training they had received on working with the phone. I was surprised to learn that none of them had received any official training. And, only one had attended a course that was offered internally by another staff member. The shocking truth is that companies feel it is too expensive and capacity draining to send staff on training for something as trivial as speaking on the phone, after all, we do tell them to be friendly, is that not enough?

Your staff speak with your clients and partners on a daily basis, and that alone warrants training. Today, I will focus on dealing with angry callers, especially at the reception desk.

1. Angry callers are usually not angry at the person who answered the phone. Remove any personal feelings you have of being screamed at and try to understand what this person is experiencing. The person who answered the phone is merely the first person the caller can tell about it.

2. Acknowledge the caller’s frustration and tell them what will happen next. For example, express that you understand their problem and that the technical department will be able to assist them by sending an engineer to their site after logging a service request. One, you have acknowledged that you understand the problem and two, you have offered a specific course of action.

3. Do not raise your voice. If you remain calm, there is a good chance that the caller will calm down.

4. Think before you speak. The faster you speak the less time you have to think about what you are saying. Angry callers have a habit of speaking fast, and it is human nature to try to match their tempo. Speaking clearly is key to remaining in control of the conversation.

5. Know your phone system. There is nothing that angers an already angry caller more than being cut off. Learn how to use the phone system so that you are able to focus on the caller. Do not focus on the buttons on the phone or the options on the computer screen.

6. Escalate the call properly. Angry callers hate being transferred back and forth. If you are not sure who should be dealing with a call, place the caller on hold and find out before transferring them.

7. Do not fall into the trap of providing a random solution to a problem because the caller is demanding you do so. If you are not the person who should be solving a problem, or you do not know how to solve a problem, do not offer a random solution just to get the angry caller off the phone. Why? Because, when the solution you proposed does not work, the caller will be angrier and they will say I knew this would not work or you do not know what you are doing, and your company could lose their business. Politely tell the caller that you are not trained to deal with their specific query and transfer them to someone who is able to help them. It is also a good idea to tell the person you are transferring the call to that the caller is upset.

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