Nobody likes difficult conversations. Use these steps for dealing with an angry customer and turn a difficult conversation into a future sales opportunity.

One of the not-so-enjoyable aspects of working in sales is when customers are upset. You probably didn’t think that an angry customer phone call could be beneficial. But if you can turn a difficult conversation into an opportunity to build rapport and trust, the conversation is worth its weight in gold. There are some basic steps for dealing with an angry customer over the phone. By following these steps you can keep your cool and help your customer.

1. Stay calm

It’s natural to tense up at the first hint that a phone conversation is taking a turn for the worse. Whether your customer is outwardly aggressive or using a passive negative tone, the first gift you can give to yourself and your customer is to stay calm. Take some deep breaths and let your customers get their emotions and feedback off their chest.

2. Listen

Active listening is one of the key steps for dealing with an angry customer over the phone. It’s easy for customers to feel ignored over the phone because they can’t read your body language to know you’re paying attention. This is where short verbal cues like “I see,” and “okay” can come in handy in between the customer’s sentences. It’s not just for show, either. You should be listening carefully and taking notes to make sure you’re keeping track of any details, dates, times, and other metrics that could be helpful in coming up with a solution.

3. Identify the problem

Most of the time, the problem or issue is revealed early on in the phone conversation, but sometimes you’ll need to gather additional information or context in order to identify the problem and its source.

4. Understand how your customer feels

Use phrases like, “Let me make sure I understand what you shared with me.” Then restate the problem and the frustrations. Follow that up with, “Do I have that right?” A simple exchange like this shows the customer that you are taking time to understand how they feel. You’re also demonstrating that you’re taking the issue seriously.

5. Take responsibility

Even if you are personally not responsible for the problem or issue, it’s a good practice to take responsibility for the inconvenience or misunderstanding. The “fall on your sword” technique works because it exhibits humility and oftentimes puts out the fire building on the other end of the phone call. Customers may be expecting a fight or difficult conversation and when you take ownership over the situation, you disarm their anger creating an environment for productive conversation.

6. Form a solution

Take advantage of the phone conversation by developing solution options together. If it’s not obvious, ask your customer what their desired solution looks like. It may not be possible, but it’s good to understand what your customer wants and try to achieve a solution as close to that as possible.

7. Avoid taking it personally

This is one of the steps for dealing with an angry customer that is easier said than done. Not all phone calls resolve perfectly. It’s easy to take conversations with an angry customer personally. It’s important to shake off the negative energy and remember that you are a person, separate from your job. Stand up and go for a quick walk around the office. Get a glass of water or a breath of fresh air. If there’s an opportunity for follow-up, make sure to do so in a timely fashion.

8. Share the feedback with your team

One of the most important steps for dealing with an angry customer is what happens when you finish the phone call. Is there anything productive that can come from this difficult conversation? Maybe you learned that there’s a gap in your sales process that could use some attention. Bring these conversations back to your sales team as a case study. Not only is it an opportunity to improve agency-wide processes, but it’s also a chance to review your own reactions. Just like role-playing, reviewing difficult conversations is an excellent teaching opportunity for you and your sales team.

It’s helpful to review these steps for dealing with an angry customer periodically and add to the list with your tried-and-true tactics. Reduce the number of difficult phone conversations by partnering with the technology and insurance experts at HBW Leads. Their team will provide you with double-verified and exclusive leads, all without you having to cold call.