Here at CDC Software, we’re advocates for treating every service experience like a sales opportunity.

If you’re in a call center interacting with a customer, you should work hard to provide them with a seamless experience and make them feel like they’re the only thing in the world that matters.

But what about when the person on the other end of the phone (or screen; it’s an omnichannel world) is acting irrationally or lashing out? Here are three tips for defusing sticky situations in the call center … and a fourth for when things clearly aren’t working out.

  1. Keep Your Cool

(Most) folks don’t start their day looking for an excuse to go after a call center agent. If you hear agitation on the other end of the line, don’t get fired up yourself. Use the customer’s name (you’ll know it if you have your telephony system hooked up to your CRM), calmly ask them to describe their issue and make clear that you understand their frustration.

Never get sarcastic or condescending. You don’t know what’s causing their anger, and you’re a reflection of your company’s brand. Kicking someone when their down can cause a slew of unintended consequences. Be the adult in the room and do what you can to talk it out. And don’t be afraid to escalate to a manager if necessary.

  1. Check the Records

Has the customer called about the same product issue three times now? No wonder they’re annoyed! When you start hearing anger bubbling up, take a second to check their call, service or purchase history. This is valuable insight that might help you deliver a positive outcome to a negative situation quickly.

  1. Present an Alternative

If there’s simply no fixing the core situation – a canceled flight, an order broken on arrival – do what you can to present an acceptable alternative. Don’t get sales-y and pretend it’s just as good (or better) than what the customer wanted in the first place. They don’t want to hear that. They do want to hear that you understand that the situation is sub-optimal, that they didn’t cause it (even if they did), and that you’re doing your best to offer something of value. An annoyed customer wants honesty and empathy, not an amateur Gordon Gekko.

  1. End the Call

Sometimes it’s best just to walk away. If the customer is lobbing personal insults, swearing or sounds a few sheets to the wind, politely dispatch the conversation and click the “hang up” button.

Have you ever had to deal with annoyed customers on the phone? We’d love to hear your stories. Connect with us on Twitter, or drop us a line on our Contact page.