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Tips for Taming Trolls and Calming Upset Customers

Tips for Taming Trolls and Calming Upset Customers

How to Deal with Angry Customers and Members

Dealing with upset customers and members is like feeding bears. Most will be happy you're there, but a few will get ugly if you don't give them what they want. When things go wrong, how well is your team equipped? Having trained customer service teams for over 25 years -- particularly those dealing with customers who are frustrated or stressed -- I've put together this list of frequently asked questions about how to deal with Internet trolls and regain lost trust with upset members and customers.


How Do You Respond to Internet Trolls and Rude or Unfair Customers / Members?

First, gather the facts to determine whether this is an actual customer or member expressing a legitimate concern, or just an Internet troll trying to provoke a response. In the case of an Internet troll posting a comment like, "This organization is horrible" (with no details), don't reply. The sooner that negative post is buried by overwhelmingly positive customer or member comments, the better.

When you do receive unflattering comments from actual members and customers, first try to contact them by phone to resolve the matter offline. If that's not possible, stick to facts (not opinions) when replying in writing, and remain professional and reasoned -- not emotional. If you discover there was an error on the part of your organization, apologize for the inconvenience and offer a solution. Mention the steps you and your organization will take to prevent it from happening again. Express your appreciation for them bringing it to your attention.


How Do You Deal with a Customer / Member Swearing on the Phone?

Say this: "I want to help you. Using that language is preventing me from focusing on resolving this for you, so I'm going to ask you to talk with me without using that language." If they continue the profanity, then say, "As I said before, I want to help you. However, I'm not going to do so when you're using that language, so I'm going to hang up. Please call back when you're ready to talk about this without that language. Goodbye." Then tell your supervisor about the conversation so they'll be forewarned when the person calls back demanding to speak to someone over your head.


What's the Fastest Way to Get an Angry Member / Customer to Calm Down?

Listen without interrupting. After they finish venting, your first words should be: "That sounds frustrating." Consider how this misstep may be affecting the person and let them know that you get it. Take ownership and apologize for any shortfall or misunderstanding.


Why are Members / Customers Ruder on the Phone than in Person?

Anonymity. Like road raging drivers in cars, people phoning in think they won't be recognized. That's why it's important to begin the phone conversation by introducing yourself with your first and last name. Then immediately ask them for their name. The quicker they identify themselves, the less likely they'll become abusive.


What are Other Strategies for Dealing with Upset Members / Customers?

Tone it down -- literally. By slowing your rate of speech and slightly lowering your voice tone, you sound less emotional and more rational. Speaking of speaking, don't dumb down your language or overuse filler words: . The more articulate you are, the more intelligent you'll be perceived to be, and the more respect you garner.


How Can I get My Staff to Care About Unhappy Members / Customers?

Begin by hiring people who have some history of caring for others. Check if they volunteered or played on sports teams, indicating they've learned to work with others and that it isn't always about them. Then provide them with proper customer communication training.

Fortunately, employees don't have to become proverbial bleeding hearts to effectively resolve member or customer concerns. They do, however, need to learn techniques to put the person's mind at ease. Contrast, for example, when an untrained employee says, "I'll deal with it," versus (after we train them), "I'll take care of it for you." By simply changing a few words, service providers create better feelings for everyone.


Bottom Line

By equipping staff and volunteers with the proper member and customer service training, you end up with less turnover and fewer social media comments that bruise your brand. Best of all, staff and volunteers discover that when you learn how to recover trust with unhappy members and customers, those formerly angry bruins can become teddy bears.



This article is based on the bestselling book, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month by Hall of Fame motivational speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com.



Understanding how best to deal with membership support issues is vital to retaining members. The CSAE-distributed title, 199 Ideas: Membership Recruitment and Retention, tackles this issue from a variety of other angles (199 other angles, to be exact.) Discover a wealth of insights that will help keep your members interested and going strong.



Jeff Mowatt, Customer Service, Trolls


Membership, Guest Contributor, Communications



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