5 Strategies to Handle Upset Callers

Angry Female Caller shutterstock_190821257Most of us have been dreaming of summer for months, and it’s finally here! With beautiful sunny days in sight it can be easy to fall into a more relaxed routine. While it can be nice to take a break, it can also be tough transitioning from days spent at the beach and enjoying cookouts to the hectic pace of the fall semester. As a new academic year ramps up, your school business office may become flooded with phone calls from students and families. 

We understand how crazy it can be juggling all those calls, because we do it too! Our multi-channel call center receives thousands of calls from students and families about payment plans, billing, student accounts and so much more. Some of these calls may not always be pleasant either. After all, when it comes to parents we’re dealing with two of their most important possessions – their children and money. Or perhaps the caller is a heated teenage student making demands that even the most skilled hostage negotiator would have trouble deciphering. As your trusted adviser, we’re here to help!

We’ve tapped our greatest resource – expert call center representatives and management – to help come up with tips and tricks to ease the burden when your office becomes flooded with calls. Here are five strategies to handle upset callers:   

  1. Tone makes all the difference. Rather than “out yelling” the caller by becoming defensive or argumentative, a great way to deescalate a situation is to keep calm. A nurturing tone can help lower the intensity of the call. It reassures the caller that they’re being heard.
  2. Remain positive! During the call it may be challenging to remain positive, especially if the caller might be making not so friendly remarks towards you. To help center and ground yourself, grab a stress ball, take a few deep breaths, or conference in with a manager to compartmentalize the call. Check out these other quick tips to keep smiling while taking customer calls.
  3. Let the caller speak! Customers want to be heard and validated. Oftentimes, they feel no one understands them or their concerns. Empathize with the caller and repeat the information back to reassure them you understand their frustrations. This also provides a chance to make sure the information you’ve gathered is correct. Don’t interject before having all of the information you need to lead the call.
  4. Write it down! Customers may seem to talk in circles, blurt out all of their thoughts rapid fire, and seem to go on tangents. Writing down key points is a good way to register what they’re saying, allowing you to organize your thoughts and decrease the chances of having to ask them to repeat themselves. You never want to give the impression that you weren’t paying attention. Jot down information, such as their name and situational details, to help personalize your responses. Being a good listener to an upset customer can be challenging and takes practice. Here are five techniques to improve your listening skills when a caller is having a bad day.
  5. Find an efficient and appropriate resolution. Taking the right steps to find a resolution for the caller in a timely manner should be the goal. Good resolutions are not measured by how long the call lasts, but rather by the information and solution offered. The caller will appreciate that their time is valued. While navigating all resources for a resolution, being put on hold may be necessary in order to avoid dead airtime. Problems can be complicated and require assistance from several different resources to resolve. One great way to continuously sharpen your team’s resolution skills is to pair them with the best – a peer mentor!

Following these strategies can be a great way to really WOW an upset caller. After all, it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative interaction. [1]


[1] http://cx.rutgers.edu/cx-news/16-must-know-customer-experience-cx-statistics-and-what-they-mean-for-your-business

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