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Dealing with angry callers

Knowing how to defuse a bomb takes great skill and expertise.

Some may say this is only necessary when faced with a bomb-situation.

But when you do find yourself holding one, you’re going to want to know how to stop it from blowing up in your face.

The same goes for dealing with angry callers – much like being thrown a surprise grenade – someone shouts your name, you turn to see what’s what, and BAM! And when the phone rings, you answer it and BAM! Someone is threatening to explode on the other end of the line.

When this happens, you have two options: let them erupt with anger (which may leave you with battle scars and a sore ear) or carefully calm them and defuse the situation. It may take a little longer, but worth it, right?

So what do you do?

1. Listen to them

Yep, it really is that simple. If your angry caller is spewing at you over the phone, joining them is going to turn your conversation into an argument. And we know nothing good comes from arguing! So stop and listen. By letting them vent, you are letting them burn off that initial anger. After which you’ll find them much more likely to talk with you, not at you.

2. Remain calm

Having someone shouting at you is an unpleasant experience. You’ll get angry and upset yourself, and quite rightly. But you’ll be much better at dealing with the situation if you take some deep breaths, count to 10, and tell yourself to chill. You’ll be amazed how being relaxed yourself can calm the other person too. Most of the time, when we come at someone with fists-doubled, we can expect to be met with double-fists ourselves. It’s a great surprise when that doesn’t happen.

3. Repeat their main points

When dealing with anyone who is brimming with anger, it’s important that you make them feel like you are on their side. Empathise with them for feeling this way, and then calmly and slowly repeat back to them the main points of their gripe. This will make them feel like their problem is being taken seriously by you, and that you are willing to help them. You’ll be surprised how much calm they are once they start talking again.

4. Explain how you can help

Usually when we have a problem, we can fix it ourselves. It’s an annoyance when we can’t. With this in mind, your angry caller will be frustrated at the fact they cannot help themselves. Their problem is in your hands, and they’re having to rely on you to help them. By explaining what you can do to help will let them feel that the problem is being dealt with, and that they have some control over the situation.

5. Make them happy

From the moment you realise you have an angry caller on your ear, tell yourself; ‘they are going to leave happy’. By making this your aim of the call, you immediately set to work on alleviating the irate caller’s anger, shortening the time they are on the phone, and then both of you can carry on with your day without a residual black cloud hanging over. By telling them you’d feel the same if you were in their position, thanking them for their patience and talking through their options, the caller is infinitely more likely to hang up with a smile on their face.

In business of course, this comes with the territory. As long as you have customers, you’ll have a few irate ones. By learning how to handle angry callers on the phone, you’ll be on the path to easily and quickly defusing all kinds of contentious situations like a pro.

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