Communication skills training

I am often asked by clients how they can better handle abusive customers over the phone. I work on a 3 strikes you’re out method with customers who are being abusive or even customers who are continually swearing or using offensive language.

If a customer is being abusive you certainly should not have to put up with it but it is up to you to put a stop to the abuse or end the call. It is up to you to decide whether language being used by the customer is offensive and use the same methods to put a stop to the behaviour or end the call.

Remain calm and assertive throughout the communication. Keep a steady tone without sounding condescending.

Here’s an example:

Customer: Swearing / being abusive

You: “I can assure you I am here to help. Would it be OK if we continued without the swearing / abuse?”

This is a two part response with an opening statement that shows the customer you are truly willing to help them and a closed question that if agreed to will allow you to continue to help them. A closed question forces the customer to either accept or reject your offer.

Customer: Continued swearing / being abusive

You: “I will only be able to help if you can cease swearing / abuse. Can you do that for me?”

Once again this is a two part response with a bit more assertiveness in the language and the tone. We are still giving the customer a choice to either accept or reject your offer to help. At this point the customer has had two warnings and two opportunities to change their behaviour.

Customer: Continued swearing / being abusive

You: “If you continue to swear / abuse me I will end the call without warning.”

This final statement is much more assertive and there is no question for the customer to confirm agreement. It is more of an order and an ultimatum.

Customer: Continued swearing / being abusive

You: End the call without any more dialog.

It is only on very rare occasions that the customer will continue their behaviour past the first two questions.

Try this approach next time you have an abusive customer and keep track of how you go.

Ian Fraser expands on this methodology in our 1 day Customer Service Training Course.