When we are faced with an angry person, we do not know how to handle the situation. Some of us either react to an angry person or try to escape. To understand and avoid the fight or flight reaction, training in handling angry clients is necessary. As a client communicator often faces irate clients, it becomes necessary for them to know how to handle the situation so that it does not damage them and the relationship with the client.
A method of handling an angry client over the phone is called the HEAT. This methods works as follows:
H – Hear them out!
When you are dealing with an irate person over the telephone, at first, they just want to get the frustration off their chest. So, the best method initially is to sit back and listen to the angry client without any interruptions or judgments. It is important to listen actively because if you don’t, the other person will think they are not important to you, which can possibly escalate the issue.
It is important to listen to the entire story of the caller. If you interrupt the caller, you will make the situation worse. Take note of any key words and phrases used that can help you resolve the problem.
Once your client realises that you are listening and taking an interest in what is being said, half the reason for the anger is gone and the situation becomes much more manageable. The purpose of listening is to assure the caller that you are willing to be patient, spend your time on resolving the issue, and providing whatever help you can.
E – Empathise
Acknowledge your client’s feelings. A typical mistake made by many service providers faced with angry or difficult callers is to tell them that there is nothing to worry about – “It’s really not a problem”. The result of telling an angry person that s/he is in the wrong is aggravating the problem. The person will then begin to think that you are not on their side. Therefore, it is vital to empathise with the angry caller and let them know that you can feel their frustration.
At this stage you need to acknowledge that the caller is upset and assure them that you are prepared to do whatever you can to help. It will show the client that you are going to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. However, showing empathy does not mean that you agree with the caller when they hit out at your organisation. Listening with empathy requires actively looking for statements that you can agree with. The objective is to be able to bring into the conversation positive “I” statements. These statements show the caller that you are willing to understand their situation.
“I appreciate you feel this way. Let’s look at how we can …”
At all times maintain self-control. You don’t want to start mirroring your upset client, as this would fuel the situation further.
A – Ask Questions
Even though the first step in the HEAT process is to listen, you will need to ask questions after you have done listening to the client to clearly understand the situation. Careful questioning helps to clarify the situation and is yet another way to reassure the caller that you are interested and concerned in resolving their problem.
T – Take Responsibility and Thank Them
Let them know that you take the responsibility for the resolution of the issue. Assure them that you will take control of the situation and get it resolved. Unhappy clients do not like to be passed around; they want to tell their problem once and know that it is going to be resolved.
Always thank your client irrespective of how difficult the call has been. Be thankful that the client felt it worthwhile to call you to share the issue with you. It’s too easy for a client to say “forget it, it’s not worth the hassle!”
You want to make it easy for clients to complain because this is giving the company the opportunity to improve their service. Thanking clients makes them feel that they did the right thing by calling you.