Customer service: Reflective listening while dealing with an angry customer

Reflective listening while dealing
Reflective listening while dealing

Customer service: Reflective listening while dealing with an angry customer

Reflective Listening: A key to great customer service.

When your job is to handle customer inquiries daily, I’m sure you have faced some very disgruntled customers. You initiate a conversation, and you immediately think this is going to ruin your day. The customer is so frustrated that he/she says something that hurts you, and you feel that you didn’t even deserve that.You’ve explained everything, but they won’t understand, and he/she asked to speak with your superior. Let’s say for the sake of argument, your superior isn’t available, and you tell the customer that you can’t escalate.After a long conversation, you hear “pathetic service,” and the call is disconnected. Sometimes later, you check your review section, and there is a bad review by the customer.You are now disappointed and have little confidence to take up another query.Did you understand, despite being a good representative, why you weren’t able to handle this customer?It is true that the customer was already frustrated and was hard to deal with. But, let’s roll back and analyze what went wrong and if we had a chance to solve this customer’s issue and save your day.The sentence above: “The customer is so frustrated that he/she says something that hurts you. “You feel that you didn’t even deserve that.” Did you relate to this?If the answer is ‘Yes,’ then this article is for you.The moment you took the comment from the customer personally, you lost grip, and the situation took over you.But hey! Was that comment really for you?To answer this, let me share with you an instance that happened when I was working as a customer support rep. I was in my initial days, so I hadn’t spent much time to know better.


I picked up a contact, and the Customer was angry due to a software integration issue. I explained that I’d have to communicate with the tech to solve this, and it will take some time. The Customer wasn’t willing to understand and started making comments like, “The person who hired you must’ve been an idiot,” “Did you fall on your head as a child”?

I was angry; I was hurt. But more importantly, now, my judgment was impaired. I wasn’t willing to help this Customer, and I just wanted him to end this conversation.

The conversation ended without a resolution, followed by a bad review. I showed it to my manager, and she said that it’s okay, this bad review wasn’t for me since the customer was already miffed. Later, she called the Customer and tried to understand the case. Within 15 minutes, the Customer was calm, and he apologized for being rude to me.

The Customer who I thought was a rude person, apologized. 

I was unclear about what happened. My manager made me realize my error. She pointed out that during the whole conversation, I had only enforced the policy and told the customer that it would take time. I never tried to have an actual conversation with the customer. Due to the integration issue, he was losing a whole bunch of customers and a lot of money.

If I had listened to the Customer more and not enforce what I think is the best, would’ve changed things. The Customer was just frustrated about the situation and not actually mad at me.

I sure could’ve asked the customer to deal with this situation professionally and not to make those comments. I sure could’ve empathized with the Customer and told them that I would try my best to resolve this. I sure could’ve been more conversational. I sure could’ve been more human.

Sometimes, customers are hard to deal with. They won’t understand even if you try to communicate, and that is not your fault, and it’s on the customer. Nevertheless, many angry customers just want the representative to understand what they are going through. If a representative would listen and not try to close the conversation ASAP, it sure will make the customer happy.

I understand, tell me more:

A melody, a chant. “I understand tell me more works like a charm”. An angry customer is “Angry,” and you can’t expect them to explain to you the whole thing on the first go. This is basic human nature. Eighty percent of what we say when we are angry is total “Blue Shirt.” As a representative, it is your duty to ask more questions, which will help you resolve the case.

Acknowledging what you understand and asking what you don’t, makes the customer focus on solving the issue, rather than pounding on you. This technique is called Reflective Listening.

An example of reflective listening would be: :

Customer service: Reflective listening while dealing with an angry customer 1

Customer – I am frustrated. I haven’t been able to sync my orders for the past two days, and you guys are not even offering a discount. I LOST MONEY because of you.

Rep – I understand, but…

We all know where this is going. You are doing your job correctly in this scenario, as well. However, is this what you would be pleased to hear when you are in the same situation as your customer?

I believe the answer is no.

Now with reflective listening:

Rep – I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. So, what I am hearing is that due to some technical reasons, your orders were not imported into the system. Thus, you would like us to issue some form of compensation, as this error impacted your business. Is that correct?

[Learn more about dealing with frustrated customers on our blog titled – How a skilled customer service team lowers customer churn rate?]

You have calmed the customer a bit and built a path to a conversation, which will eventually help to resolve this issue.

 From one rep to another: Patience is a Virtue. Never lose one unless you really have to. You can turn the angriest customer into a happy one by just building a conversation.

You also might be interested in reading our other blogs designed to help professionals dealing with customers daily:

  1. How a skilled customer service team lowers customer churn rate?
  2. How to handle the holiday rush?

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