Potty Mouth

The cursing customer is a wild beast, feverish with anger. They are like chameleons, appearing like every other customer, until the time comes for their royal coach to turn into a pumpkin. Their mouth splatters vengeful, colorful words faster than bad Chinese food running through your digestive system. And, as always with these situations, the customer service representative takes the hardest hit.

But, why do these customers go this route? Are they just angry at life and that disrespectful? Do they think the louder and angrier they be, the better support they will receive? Going along with Jeremy’s “The Church of Customer Service” post, there are the 5% that require extra attention, patience and thick skin.

I want to examine the “Potty Mouth” customer and focus on how to understand in order to provide the best customer support, even to the most foul mouthed person (without making them eat too much soap).

Most of the time, a customer reaches the boiling point due to inefficiencies with their service. It is then up to the customer service to listen to the customer, identify the issue, tackle it head on and resolve it, while providing empathy and compensation.  These situations, frustrating for both customer and service rep, are great learning experiences for the company as a whole. “How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again, for anyone?”

But, while the call is in session, how can a customer support representative keep their cool while helping the customer calm down and be assured the issue will be addressed?

CallCentreHelper.com has a forum post that sums up the main points:

  • Tell the customer that cursing/using profanity will not help solve their problem and that they should calm down.
  • If the customer continues to curse, say if they curse again, you will have to hang up on them and they can call back once they’ve calmed down.
  • If the customer continues to curse, say “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have call back once you’ve calmed down.” and hang up immediately.
  • Describe the situation in the call log and make a note of it in the customer’s account

Maybe it’s no secret, but a trick I learned from a good friend (who is also a successful career coach) is to catch the customer’s tone of voice at the same high level they are speaking at and slowly lower your voice as you finish your sentence. I’m not sure how it works, but ever since she brought this to my attention, I have found it to work the majority of the time.

All in all–people just want to be reassured. They want their issues fixed. Some people are angrier than others. I’ve had to learn along the way to NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Yeah, the customer is yelling F this and F that, but he’s not directing it to me. Not taking it personally has truly  helped me handle angry customers much better. Providing follow up and honest answers helps me gain the trust of customers who are angry. Ultimately, we want to restore their faith in us and our product. A little kindness, patience and thick skin will go a long way.

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  • Great post Jenny! It’s funny, as I was reading this I was totally thinking that some of these techniques also work great with an angry 3 year old.

  • HAHA I suppose it could definitely be, though I have no experience with that (besides just laughing). Funny how customer service techniques roll over into regular daily life!

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