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How We Deal with Upset Callers

We’ve all had them. Stress filled moments as someone yells in our ear about some or other complaint. That’s why today’s topic is all about those dreaded “bad callers” and how to deal with them.

At Real Receptionist, a South African call answering agency, all call operators are expected to represent the business they are assigned to with professional and friendly tones. They cannot lose their cool when a caller is rude, annoying or angry.

“We know that not every call answered will be a pleasant experience,” says Chenara Coetzee, Co-Founder of Real Receptionist, “Sometimes, we get calls from very disgruntled people, and it’s our job to handle the situation as politely as possible, all while aiming to resolve the caller’s complaint or cause for distress. No matter how rude the caller becomes, we cannot respond in kind as we speak on behalf of a business, a business that always needs to uphold friendly and understanding customer care.”

3 Steps for representing a brand during difficult calls:

Step 1: Remain calm and focus.

Take a breath, but not too loud, just soft enough so your caller cannot hear you, so that you can get a fresh dose of oxygen and contemplate the situation for a few seconds. Use this moment to acknowledge that:

• You did nothing wrong, and it is not your fault.

• You need to remain calm and polite.

• You need to discover exactly why the caller is upset.

• You need to help them as best and quick as possible.

Once you acknowledge your game plan for dealing with the caller, it becomes easier to not get upset yourself nor take any hurtful comments they make personally. It allows you to focus on finding the best solution for the caller and help turn their sour disposition into a more appreciative one.

Step 2: Let the caller vent.

Most of the time, an upset caller is just someone that wants to be heard. Yes, they had a bad experience with the brand or product/s, but usually they become calmer once they feel someone has attentively listened to their complaint.

While there is no excuse for rudeness, try to understand where a caller could be coming from: perhaps they are stressed about wasting money when they have little to spare, perhaps their employer has placed pressure on them, perhaps they are rushed and have limited time to find a solution. There are many situations that can push people to drop their kindness and just rant away. 

The best advice is to “let them talk”. 

“Let the caller scream and shout and explain to their heart’s content,” recommends Coetzee, “Don’t interrupt them, just listen attentively and allow the caller to vent. Once they have said their piece and feel that someone listened, they become much more docile and open to recommended solutions. The worst thing you can do with an upset caller is to interrupt their rant, place them on hold, or transfer their call – these will just enrage them more.” 

Step 3: Go the extra mile to help.

Once you know what the problem is, consider the solutions available and offer the best ones to the caller, BUT try to leave them with a smile. This can be challenging, depending on the business represented, but there are ways to offer extra support and aim to retain the caller as a client or customer.

“We discuss all possible solutions for disgruntled callers with all businesses that sign up for Real Receptionist,” continues Coetzee, “A study by Salesforce recently showed that 74% of callers will stop supporting a business if their call is handled in an unsatisfactory manner. They can also end up leaving a bad review and cost the business more customers in the wake of their fury.”

That’s why scripts are so important at Real Receptionist. Part of setting up a call operator for new members is the compiling of a script where the business and its products are explained, as well as frequently asked questions with the best matching replies. These scripts are invaluable and should also include options to appease upset callers and restore the brand-client relationship by going the extra mile. Such options can include discounts, vouchers, follow-up calls/visits from senior staff, complimentary gifts or subscription add-ons, product exchanges, and whatever forms of flattery available to ensure the once upset caller says “goodbye” with a smile on their face.

Every business will have its own variant of an upset caller, and they will have their own way of appeasing such callers to mitigate damages to the brand and losing revenue. The best advice is to have backup plans for all scenarios.

“We keep track of FAQs and common complaints and report these to our members as they occur. They can then consider and prepare the best solutions that we can use should a similar call comes through in the future. This is how business grow and improve their customer care, and we at Real Receptionists are proud to be part of every business that improves with our call answering assistance.”

If you’d like to learn more about how Real Receptionist handles business calls for their members, or if you need a hand with handling calls for your own business, visit their website or give them a call. You can even WhatsApp. It’s a great solution for lean teams that need help with distracting incoming calls, and they handle disgruntled callers with the perfect care.


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