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5 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Customer Call

We don’t get to choose who we interact with.
But we do have a choice in how we respond.


It’s inevitable that with any client-facing role, you’ll likely have to deal with a difficult customer or a situation that has escalated to a tense conversation. At OptiCall, we train our staff to be able to handle all types of callers. However, when it comes to dealing with someone who is frustrated or even angry, we follow 5 key strategies to ensure we resolve issues as quickly and effectively as possible:


1. Make Empathy the Priority

Situations typically escalate when the customer doesn’t feel understood, or they feel like they’ve had to repeat their situation multiple times. Even if they may be wrong, always listen first and avoid interrupting them. Acknowledge their feelings and try to identify with where they are coming from. Then, assure them that you’ll do your best to resolve the issue.


2. Keep Your Cool

“Don’t let a negative customer get to you” is easier said than done. However, one of the worst things you can do is to allow the emotions of the caller to frustrate or annoy you. If they cut you off in the conversation, raise their voice, or make a sarcastic comment, always do your best to remain calm and try not to take their words personally.


3. Assume Others Can Hear You

Part of OptiCall’s First Contact program is to record calls to ensure quality and determine performance. While not every practice records phone calls, other people may overhear your conversations – including patients in the waiting room. Furthermore, a disgruntled customer could tell others about their experience or even write a poor review. A survey showed 95% of respondents who have had a bad experience said they told someone about it, compared to 87% who shared a good experience. As such, always respond with care and caution in the heat of the moment. You don’t want to later regret how you reacted.


4. Know When to Involve Management

Sometimes a situation can escalate too long before management steps in. By the time a caller demands to speak to a manager, things have already gone too far.

It’s important for phone staff to be trained to handle callers to a point, but to quickly involve someone more senior before things get too heated. As soon as the caller becomes rude or raises their tone, a customer service member should be ready to say something like:

“I can sense your frustration about this. I’ll get my manager to speak with you so we can resolve this issue.”

It goes without saying while staff should be properly trained to handle difficult situations, abuse by a customer should never be tolerated.


5. Take a Minute

While it’s important to not take a negative call personally, that can be hard to do. Once a tough situation has been resolved, take a mental break by stepping away from your desk or getting some fresh air. It may also be necessary for managers to debrief the situation with employees to provide feedback on what went well and what could be done differently next time.

At the end of the day,  it’s critical for practice managers to ensure their employees are not only trained on technical expertise, but also how to handle heated situations. OptiCall has over 10 years of expert phone-handling services specific to the elective medical industry. We manage calls with one goal in mind – to convert callers into patients, and ultimately, happy customers. Click here to request actual patient calls.