Working in customer service often means dealing with angry people. Unfortunately, these angry customers will often direct their anger at you, personally. Burn out from the stress of this constant exposure to anger is very common in our industry, but there are steps you can take to inoculate yourself from the stress and strain of being on the receiving end of customers’ anger.
Don’t take it personally
It is enormously helpful to keep the situation in perspective. Remember that your customer was angry before their encounter with you. Even when they are acting as though they are angry with you, they are actually angry with the situation. Keeping this in mind will help you to distance yourself emotionally from their behavior and react appropriately to the problem at hand.
Understand their anger, suppress your own
Anger is often the result of feeling slighted or like the victim of forces beyond one’s control. An angry customer feels wholly entitled to their anger; their anger is justified by the situation even when they are being quite unfair to you. It is a normal reaction to become defensive or even go on the offense when someone treats us this way, but meeting anger with anger is not only professionally inappropriate but also adds fuel to the fire. A customer will always consider their own anger and angry behavior as justified, but any angry response from you will only be perceived as retaliatory and personal. Never allow yourself to become the aggressor.
Join their team
Remind both yourself and your customer that you are The Problem Solver. Your role is to find solutions and right mishaps and wrongs. Moving your mindset (and your customer’s) to one of being an ally in the quest for resolution can quickly shift the dynamic away from one of being adversaries. A simple phrase like “I will help you resolve this” or “I want to help” is often all you need to cause this change.
Take a deep breath and relax
It sounds simple enough, but when we are stressed out by the situation at hand, we forget to breathe and tense up. Forcing ourselves to take a deep, slow breath can automatically release tension and free up our brains for focusing on problem solving, rather than just the source of the stress. If a simple deep breath is falling short for you, couple the exhale with a guided relaxation that is counted out: as you breathe out, imagine the feeling of calm starting at the top of your head (1), then descending to your jaw (2), neck and shoulders (3), chest and stomach (4). This can be helpful during a call or as a “recovery” after it.
Get away from it all
Ruminating on particularly difficult or upsetting interactions typically does not release you from the toll they’ve taken on you. Instead, it intensifies the negative feelings they elicited as you become hyper focused on every detail. While it is always helpful, from a professional standpoint, to review your cases for ways in which you can improve how you handled them, it is equally important to then grant yourself the freedom to move beyond those cases. One of the most effective ways to do this is by engaging in an enjoyable distraction: play basketball, watch a movie, read a book, play with your dog. Anything that will force your mind away from hitting “replay” will help you reset your own emotions.
Taking steps to protect yourself against the effects of dealing with angry customers will not only improve your ability to successfully meet the needs of your customers, but will also help ensure that you do not suffer burnout. Have you developed any additional methods that help you? Share them here!