It seems to me that John Q. Public is getting more angry and rude as the months go by. Starting in the middle of last year, I noticed when I was listening to calls at clients' that customers would just start screaming as soon as the phone was answered by some unsuspecting rep. Why?
I think it's partly the economy, partly the speed of life, partly people are sick of IVRs and trying to make their way through nightmare call trees, and partly bad food and no exercise. Really! Also, as I noted in my short post on Customer Service 2.0, we're all tired of waiting on hold to talk to people who aren't skilled enough or well trained enough to help us.
What's the best way to deal with these people if you find yourself on the other end of the phone? You may want to tell angry customers to stop yelling at you, but the best way to get these folks to calm down is to just let them vent. Your job is to listen. Don't interrupt! If you stay calm, don't take it personally, and give that person your undivided attention, you'll find that he or she often calms down. It feels sooooo good to have someone actually listen to you and try to understand your problem, don't you think? Yet, how many times do you feel that someone is really listening? My guess is, not often. I've seen this technique work time and time again to the extent that the customer not only calms down, but develops a good rapport with the customer service or technical support agent by the end of the call.
Research has shown that customers who have had a problem solved by a company are more loyal than customers who have never had a problem. So if you want to improve customer loyalty and get customers to stop yelling, pass this tip on to your call center agents.