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Advice: Ten tips on dealing with angry and emotional customers

Agents have reported a rise in the number of customers getting angry and emotional as the frustration surrounding refunds boils over.

Bob Morrell and Jeremy Blake, of Reality Training, give their 10 tips on how to tackle those challenging conversations.

Angry Customers

It’s no fun handling an angry person;

Let them vent. With anyone who is angry, we need to let them vent their feelings. Even if what they are saying is incorrect, insulting or patronising, let them get it all out and you will be better able to deal with the problem.

Never Lie. It’s tempting to say something, anything, to mollify an angry person and get them off your phone. A lie is easily exposed and will damage relationships and your business.

Call back when you said you would. Even if you have no news, or bad news, you must commit to calling people back by a certain time. Your punctuality will be appreciated and failure to call remembered.

Never show ‘disloyal bonding’. Sometimes it’s tempting to ‘slag off’ your own company, or a tour operator, or the system, as a way to deflect what’s happened and bond in a false way with the customer; as if to say ‘it’s not my fault’. Avoid this, as it can make someone angrier.

Remember this crisis is unique. None of us have ever been through anything like this before. No country, government, industry or company has ever faced this situation – so if things are slow, frustrating, or worse than before, then that is not entirely surprising. We are all doing our best under these extreme circumstances. 

Emotional Customers

When someone is very emotional it is important to pause your natural desire to take them through your process, and begin your work.

Recognise the emotion. Are they angry, annoyed, upset or anxious or maybe a combination of these? They want to tell you how they feel and they want you to understand, on an emotional level.

Make it ‘adult to adult’. As adults you are better at dealing with the here and now and you are not connecting to the past. This is the place both travel agent and customer needs to be.

Be empathetic as well as sympathetic. Depending on the issue, you may need to show some natural sympathy. But practical solutions require empathy. Understanding and organisation will resolve the problem, ultimately.

Don’t talk down to customers. This is talking to the customer like they’re a child and you’re their parent. void phrases like “calm down,” “it’s just a holiday”, or even “how dare you talk to me like that”.

Disappointment is currently everywhere.We’re all experiencing disappointment in varying forms. Your customer’s situation is not unique. You can only control your own behaviour.  Emotional customers mean that first you have to put both sides in the best possible position, to have a positive conversation that reaches the best outcome.

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