7 de-escalation techniques for better customer service. Pros and cons of de-escalation over the phone


Keep calm and de-escalate

What is the main rule of modern business? The customer is always right! But, there comes a time when customer support staff have to deal with clients who are actively expressing their dissatisfaction with the provided services. To put it simply, support consultants have to deal with irate and difficult customers almost on a daily basis. And that is bound to create a lot of problems for the customer service agents themselves. 

For starters, dealing with an angry person, be it a customer, a family member or a good friend is always unpleasant. But, if in personal life, the situation might be resolved with time, when working in support, one must address the situation immediately as well as find the best solution in the shortest time possible.

What is de-escalation?

De-escalation is a pattern of behavior aimed at calming down your opponent, thus escaping the conflict situation altogether. This skill is a must-have in a modern customer support world because calming down the customer is the first step on the way to successfully resolving whatever complaint they may have with the services or product. 

But, here comes our first obstacle. Not every customer is going to express their anger in the same way. We’re all unique and there is always a possibility to come across several types of expression of dissatisfaction. 

😡 Angry customer

Surely, one of the most difficult categories. When the client is so angry with the occurred problem that they simply can’t help but be angry. They might scream, swear, threaten to abandon your services altogether and do other things that people tend to do and say when they are angry. This is one of the most challenging but at the same time most common client type that customer support consultants come across. 

🤷Achiever

All these clients want is to see the results. They tend not to care how they are going to get them, they just want to make sure that support staff are going to do everything in their power to get the job done. Is the shift over? Does someone’s head hurt? Has the supervisor gone home? They do not want to hear excuses. They just want their issue resolved, and they want it done NOW. 

🗣️ Talker

Yes, they have a problem, but they just want to talk. Customers of this type just need to vent. They want to really make sure that you have understood everything about their problem. They will repeat everything several times. And keep in mind that they are most likely going to be very angry at that moment. 

These are the main types of customers that one might come across while working in customer support. Dealing with people like these daily might be very hard. That is exactly why it is important to know how and when to de-escalate the situation. 

How to de-escalate the situation? 

A lot of customers understand that it is not your fault that the issue has occurred. But most of them do not care about that. You should also remember that. Clients just want their voices heard. They want you to understand the problem and make it go away. While that might not fall under your duties at all, you still have to do everything you can in order to make sure that the problem is gone and that the client is completely satisfied. 

De-escalation techniques for customer service representatives

1. Do not take the anger personally

The first thing that you need to understand is that the discontent expressed by the client is not aimed at or caused by a consultant. When the customer starts yelling and gets angrier by the minute, it is important to know that it is only about the customer themselves. 

2. Keep calm and carry on

Remain calm and professional throughout the entire conversation. If the agent is calm, then the customer is going to start calming down as well. Over time there is even a chance to calm the customer down completely and have a normal conversation with them. 

3. Listen without interruption

While dealing with difficult customers, it is crucial to let them say everything they need to say. It is important to understand that all the customers want is for you to hear them. And active listening is the only way for a support consultant to really show — the customer is heard. 

4. Display empathy

Even though one might understand the source and the nature of the complaint, there is still a need to listen and hear the client. Be empathetic. Assure them that everything is going to be resolved and that all of their needs are going to be met. Seeing an empathetic attitude is going to help an angry client express their dissatisfaction in a calm manner.

5. Do not make promises you can’t keep

As much as we want to apply this rule to customer service only, this is really a rule for every-day life too. Never make promises you cannot keep, especially when the reputation of your company is heavily dependent on it.

6. There should be no arguing and no saying ‘no’

Client is always right, remember? And all there’s left to do is to document the problem they are having, understand the reasons for it and fix it as soon as possible.

And while we are at it, never use negating sentences. “I don’t know”, “I cannot”, “I don’t understand”, “It is not within my power” should not be in support consultant’s vocabulary at all. Instead, use other structures, such as “I am researching this question”, “I will try to resolve the issue”, “I have to dig in a little deeper” and so on. 

7. Suggest realistic steps for resolution

This is a good strategy when dealing with discontent customers. Most often they want to know what can be done. This works for all types of customers. 

A good approach is to first confirm that you fully understand the issue a customer has and the reasons for it. Show empathy, listen and talk to the customer. Then give a realistic suggestion. E.g. explain what you can do for a customer right away. Then explain what steps are going to be taken within the next 24-48 hours if the issue requires the attention of a supervisor or any kind of specialist in the company. 

Another super important part is for a support consultant to provide status updates if the case was escalated, and if the issue is going to take a few days to be resolved.

So, to recap:

DON’TDO
❌Blame yourself or the client for the issue
❌Take the anger or any other negative reaction personally 
❌Get angry with the customer
❌Argue with the customer
❌Act superior
❌Display your possible irritation
❌Act or talk without thinking
❌Transfer the client to your superior without reason
✅Offer a sympathetic ear
✅Remain calm
✅Listen to the customer fully
✅Be prepared for a long conversation
✅Try to understand the client in their frustration
✅Ask for additional information that will help you resolve the issue quicker
✅Behave professionally
✅Offer the solution as soon as possible

Is it easier to de-escalate the issue over the phone? 

Even in our well-connected and developed world, phone calls are still the primary and the fastest way to connect with your clients. According to the Live Chat Benchmark Report about 40 percent of all of the customer complaints are received over the phone. The rest falls to chats, emails and even face-to-face interactions. That’s why we would pay most of our attention to de-escalating over the phone and ask ourselves: is it really easier? 

Well it is most certainly quicker. Especially when the client is ready to calm down and cooperate by giving support agents all the information. Of course, it will also be easier for the client, because they do not have to be in front of the computer all the time. 

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of de-escalating over the phone.

Disadvantages: 

  • Support consultants will have to listen to someone scream. 
  • It might take more time and limit them in their ability to help other customers. 
  • Over time, it might take a toll on morale and overall mood. 
  • It makes support reps burn out faster. 

But, there are also certain advantages to the process. 

  • The process goes faster. 
  • Customer support agents are able to ask all the needed questions and do not need to wait for a reply via email or chat. 
  • Support consultants have the possibility to calm the customer down. 
  • Consultants are not going to miss the ticket.

Conclusion

De-escalation is a difficult task, but one that any support agent is going to have to go through over the course of their career. Very often having to deal with angry customers is scaring potential applicants away from otherwise great positions. Knowing how to de-escalate the situation, understanding the process and basic techniques surely makes customer support consultant’s job seem even more attractive. 

 

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