5 Techniques to improve your listening skills when the caller is having a really bad, less than excellent, horribly terrible day

Angry Caller shutterstock_150150278.jpgDoes this scenario sound familiar?

Phone rep: “ Hello my name is Jessica, How can I assist you today?”

Caller:  “Well, I sure hope so because YOUR organization doesn’t know what they are doing! #!!#^*…”

This is one of the worst feelings in the world as a phone representative. You answer that incoming call and immediately hear an irate customer on the other end.

What is your first reaction?   Defense.

What do you stop doing when this happens?   Listening.

Let’s take a moment to review some skills we can engage when this happens.


  1. Tune in:

Many times irate callers need to get things off their chest before they calm down. They want the representative they are speaking with to sympathize with them and share their pain. Listen to what they are saying actively and avoid jumping to conclusions too soon. Turn off the never-ending stream of mind chatter especially things like “this caller is ridiculous”. Suspend your judgment and wait until the caller is finished before you create a response. If you respond too soon you may let your emotions get the best of you and respond in a demeaning or judgmental way.

  1. Find Compassion:

You never know what the caller on the other end was experiencing that day.  They could have suffered a great loss or tragedy or just be having a really bad day. Think back to a time you were having an exceptionally bad day and called a customer service line only to vent and take it out on the person on the other side of the line. Give this compassion to the caller since this is the time they need it most.

  1. Don’t be a critic:

One of the fastest ways to escalate an irate customer is to give a low blow to their self esteem. Don’t insinuate that some or all of the blame is on them and don’t try to downplay that their issue it not serious or important. This may lead to the customer exaggerating their behavior and escalating the call to try to get you to take them more seriously.

  1. Get the point:

 Listen for the main point or theme that the caller is trying to relate to you instead of the nitty gritty details. The true details will come once the main point is conveyed. If you get too wrapped up in the emotional details the caller is dramatizing the true nature of their call may be eclipsed.

  1. Summarize:

Stop when you need to and ask if you can summarize what the caller is saying or asking them for permission to reassure you are understanding what they said correctly. This can also demonstrate to the customer that you are listening, which will make them feel valued and may help them relax and hear what you’re saying.

Being a good listener is a lifetime learning practice. Being a good listener to an upset customer can be a downright challenge. Be patient, be kind and remember you never know what someone else has gone through until you walk in their shoes. To test your own listening skills take this quick 12 question quiz by Wittcom.com.   http://wittcom.com/the-listening-quiz/


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