In the field of customer service, there are times when customer support staff have to handle
dissatisfied customers, it is inevitable, and it is part of the field. Handling irate and upset clients
may sound like a difficult task, but there are strategies to successfully handle the concerns
faced by these individuals, these are known as de-escalation techniques. These techniques
draw on your personal ability to understand people and how they react when facing challenges.
In this piece, we will be discussing five different methods and techniques you can use to
de-escalate what would be considered a stressful conversation.

Five de-escalation techniques to use as a Customer Service Representative:

  1. Practice Active listening:
    • Broad statements like “I sympathize” or “I understand” don’t cut it any longer
      when addressing someone who is frustrated with the service they are receiving.
      The first and best technique a customer service representative can practice is
      active listening. When attending a customer who is embittered, listen carefully
      and without interruption as they speak and acknowledge their concerns. See
      where throughout their journey things did not stick and if you are able to redirect
      them towards a solution. Do this by using validating language though you should
      never promise to fix the situation at hand, you might not be able to, show genuine
      interest towards them. The immediate goal is to make the customer feel valued
      and get them to ease up before defining a plan of action.
  2. Be calm and sincere:
    • When customers come to you for support, at times they may express anger and
      irritability towards you. Understand this isn’t a personal jab at you, these
      individuals have reached a peak in their patience, and sadly they are directing it
      to you. When managing emotional customers, the key is not being reactive to
      their frustration, instead, maintaining a placid tone. Act as a calming agent in the
      conversation, be sincere about what you can and can’t help them with, and most
      importantly let them know you are doing everything you can from your end to
      help them out.
  3. Breakdown the problem:
    • If the customer has a layered and complex issue at hand, you can de-escalate
      their frustration by breaking down the problem they are facing. Doing this makes
      it easier to see which steps are missing to fix the issue at hand. Even if the
      customers do not shift their tone throughout the breakdown, it will help you to
      be more efficient on where to target your support process.
  4. Offer a realistic resolution:
    • More often than not, dissatisfied customers just want to know what can be done
      to fix their issues. A good approach is to explain to the customer what you can
      immediately do for them. Afterward, discuss which steps will be taken in the
      next 24 hours if their issue were to require the attention of any higher-ranking
      staff or specialists of the company.
  5. Thank them for their patience:
    • Thanking a customer once in a while throughout the conversation for voicing their
      concern to you, is essential in de-escalating an unpleasant conversation.
      Acknowledging their time and patience with you as you try to solve their issue
      shows understanding, they will feel listened to, which in turn, builds rapport
      between you both. Highlight that their issues are a priority for you and the overall
      business at the moment, the customer should feel like your support team knows
      of the issue they faced is one to be taken seriously.

De-escalating an upset customer is no easy feat, handling the situation with care, respect and
attentiveness will, for the most part, yield positive results. Customers are the life of a business,
the strategies above will maximize customer retention, avoid churn, and flip what could have
been an unpleasant conversation to one adequately addressed and supported.



~F. Hernandez