Anyone who’s ever worked on the service front line has had to deal with an irate customer at some point, so it’s good to know how to handle this situation. Also, fully expect to be asked this question during a help desk interview!
The second you pick up your phone, you hear the yelling begin. Uh hoh – you’ve got an irate user on your hands!
Irate users can’t be avoided when you’re on the front-line of tech support, but the good news is that you can learn to handle them like a pro. Follow these simple steps to calm the raging bull!
Step 1 – Listen
Your first inclination may be to try to have the person calm down (or at least stop shouting!) But this is the wrong approach. First things first, find out what’s caused the anger and frustration by listening to the user.
Step 2 – De-escalate
The best way to calm someone down is by showing them you empathize with their situation. Once you’ve heard them out, let them know you understand why they’re upset. It’s hard to stay angry at someone who’s agreeing with you, after all. Avoid asking the person to calm down, by the way. Those words are pretty much guaranteed to have the opposite effect on people!
Step 3 – Propose a resolution
Based on what is causing the anger, propose a way to resolve the issue. Some folks have poor emotional control and may take out their frustration on you simply because their computer is not working right. If that’s the case, the resolution is simple: let them know you’ll help get their issue sorted out and then start working on it. In the case where you or your organization is at fault, you might consider apologizing or some other small gesture. For example, if everyone on the help desk stepped away for lunch and the user has been calling with an urgent issue for over an hour, some frustration is understandable. Own up to your end of it with a quick apology. (It won’t kill you, I promise!)
That’s pretty much it! With those three steps, you can take someone from irate to friendly fairly quickly.
With all that in mind, please remember that you’re not a doormat. If someone is abusing you verbally, cursing at you, or insulting you, you’re under no obligation to sit there and take their abuse. Depending on the severity, you might transfer them to your supervisor instead (that’s why they pay him/her the big bucks, right?) But this type of situation is rare – most irate users will not be disrespectful to you, so you can use the above steps with them.
You may find yourself hoping not to have to deal with problematic users like this, but I invite you to see this not as a problem but as an opportunity. You’re in a field that is not known for its soft skills. Showing that you’re able to handle problematic people effectively will help you stand out from your coworkers!
With each post, I cover a new topic to help you get your start (or keep progressing) in your IT career. If it’s your first time visiting this blog, start here. And make sure to check out these top interview questions before you start interviewing!