Dealing with an angry or irate customer is unpleasant, but it is par for the course if you work in the customer service industry. This is particularly true in eCommerce, where customers’ expectations are sky-high. Few people complain to a business about their experience, as little as one in 25, but some love to vent to customer support agents via email.
People are more likely to complain angrily via email than over the telephone because there is no interaction with the agent receiving the complaint. Once the customer has typed out their thoughts and sent the email, it is job done as far as they are concerned. They sit back, stewing in their anger, and wait for your response, which they expect to arrive in a record-quick time. Many customer support teams use email templates to respond to customers. While such templates allow agents to respond quickly, they should be ditched immediately for reasons you are about to learn. They are impersonal and can make an angry customer even more so when they realize they have received a blanket email response.
Read to Understand Not With Only the Intent to Reply
Most people are guilty of scanning an email and not actively reading it. They look down at the email and see words like “my delivery was late” and begin formulating a reply before they have finished taking in the rest of the text. You must understand why the customer is upset and what they are upset with. Whether you work for Amazon and the wrong item was delivered or represent one of the top sports betting sites for Americans and Canadians and a withdrawal is delayed, it is imperative that you fully understand why a customer is complaining; otherwise, you cannot respond in a manner that defuses the situation.
Use a Customer’s Name and Mirror Their Language to Show Empathy and Understanding
Dale Carnegie, the author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ penned, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” People want to be heard, and they want to be understood. Pull up the customer’s records and ensure you address them correctly, be that Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones, or Ms. Johnson.
Mirror the complainant’s language when apologizing because this shows you have read their email. In addition, using terms and phrases from the email creates a sense of trust, understanding, and empathy. For example, a customer may send, “I ordered Item X as a present for my grandson’s birthday, and it should have arrived on Day Y, but it never arrived; his birthday was ruined!” Responding with an apology using the information given and adding a personal touch can instantly defuse the situation and bring the customer onto your side. Again, for example, “Dear Mrs. Smith, I apologize that Item X did not arrive. I, too, would be disappointed had I ordered this as a birthday gift for one of my loved ones, and it did not arrive on time.”
Use Positive Language, and Offer Explanations and Solutions
Always use positive language in your responses, especially when explaining why something occurred or offering a solution. Avoid words like “I’m afraid” or aggressive sounding “for your information,” as these can fuel the fire.
Explain why the anger-causing issue happened, and ask the customer what they would like to happen to rectify the situation. Of course, it is not always possible to fulfill the customer’s request, but the fact you asked them for their input makes the customer feel that they are being listened to and that you are doing everything in your power to make them happy.
Ask them if your suggested solution works for them. Using our earlier example, something like “I can reorder Item X and upgrade you to free priority delivery. I appreciate that this is not ideal, but it would mean your grandson will still receive his brilliant, thoughtful gift. Would that work for you?”
Apologise Again, and Sign Off With More Positivity and Something Personal
My English tutor taught me always to end a letter on a positive note no matter how negative the rest of the letter was. Apologizing again shows you are sorry for making the customer angry or upset while signing off with a positive message or a touch of something personal goes a long way.
“I apologize again for the upset and inconvenience the missing delivery has caused you, Mrs. Smith. I do hope your grandson still has a wonderful birthday. Rest assured, we will take steps to prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”
Signing off an email like that reverts to information the complainant shared earlier and shows you were listening to what they had to say. Furthermore, the last sentence gives the customer a sense of power and makes them feel they have achieved something because their complaint may help others in the future; everybody wins!