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Customers are Angry: What Can Your Call Center Do About It?

November 14, 2013

By Tracey E. Schelmetic,
TMCnet Contributor

The modern world makes us angry. We have road rage, spam rage and phone rage. Increasingly, however, many of us are suffering from “call center rage.” That’s the feeling of rising blood pressure we get when we are asked to wait on hold excessively, transferred too many times, expected to act with an automated phone system that cuts us off, or are asked to repeat our account numbers too many times on the same call.

The fact that we’re increasingly angry as customers is not just anecdotal. A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of cloud call center solutions provider Five9 (News - Alert), the “Five9 2013 Contact Center Report,” found that today's consumers have incredibly high customer service expectations. However, they no longer have the time, patience, or desire to have in-person interactions with businesses to get support.

Image via Shutterstock

The report found that there are a variety of triggers that cause consumers to become violent, enraged, or very frustrated when they call a company for customer service. The most common triggers are:

  • Speaking with a rude customer service representative (60 percent);
  • Speaking with an incompetent customer service representative (52 percent);
  • Not reaching a live person when calling a company for support (48 percent);
  • Getting disconnected (44 percent);
  • Explaining their issue more than once (40 percent); and
  • Being put on hold for too long (38 percent).

While angry customers are a problem for any business, they are a particular concern today, since the angry customer of 2013 is likely to seek retribution. Eighty-five percent of consumers reported that they will retaliate against a company if their customer service needs are not met. This might include badmouthing the company to friends or relatives, sharing bad experiences on social media, asking to speak with managers or simply refusing to do further business with the company.

No matter how high the quality of customer service provided, the average contact center is still going to face telephone calls from angry customers at least occasionally – sometimes the customers are abusively angry. Smart contact centers identify the agents best equipped to handle these customers (they are usually patient, apologetic and non-condescending) and route these customers to these specialized agents. Often termed “customer retention specialists,” their job is to calm and placate the customer and try to retain his or her business.

“The Five9 study identified several steps businesses can take to mollify infuriated customers,” said the company in a statement. “In most cases, it lies with the company's number one brand advocate, the customer service agent, to turn that enraged customer around.”

Training agents to handle complaints and anger is a great step toward mitigating customer loss and negative social media posts. (Of course, it helps to avoid the behavior that makes customers angry in the first place, as well, something companies can do with a robust contact center platform.)

It also helps to remember that customers don’t have to do business with you (unless you’re the IRS, of course). While it’s easy to lose perspective and blame customers for negative attitudes, chances are, the roots of those attitudes are buried in the company’s inefficiencies somewhere.

Edited by Blaise McNamee