The Ultimate Customer Meltdown Survival Guide

Emilie Johnston

You work in tech support. So naturally you’re a Jedi master when it comes to solving tech problems - even on a dinosauric TI-81, right?

Well, that’s what the people on the other end of the line think - and they can be extremely passionate about their opinions on how you should be handling their support request.

Dealing with customers who are irate, frustrated, or just downright in full meltdown mode can be exhausting, and make each customer more difficult than it needs to be. The good news? There’s a stress-free way to deal with each customer that will be both helpful to them and won’t leave you feeling emotionally drained and ready to hit the pub come 5 o’clock.

The Irate Instigator

You’d think you kicked this person’s dog by the way they came out of the gate swinging, but you’ve never met them or their dog in your life. The fact is, they’re not mad at you. They’re mad at the computer screen in front of them that’s not doing what they’re mentally willing it to do. But you’re an easier target since it would hurt more to drop a $1,400 iMac from a two-story window.

Start by reminding them of your common enemy: the problem they submitted a ticket about. Ask for details. When did they first notice the issue? How long have they been struggling with it? Show them you care about this problem and get them talking about it.

While you’re troubleshooting, remind them that you’re human. Something as simple as, “Man, I know how that feels. I get so frustrated when [insert comic relatable issue here]” can convert them away from the dark side. If you can, get them to laugh. Be the source of joy rather than the punching bag they first saw you as.

With this type of customer, it’s important not to make promises you aren’t 100% sure you can keep. Meet this person where they are in the moment, don’t promise to resolve it within the next 20 minutes unless you’re sure you can - but instead let them know you’re going to do everything in your power to help.

The Fix it Freak Out

Whether your caller is simply having trouble logging in or they think their entire virtual world is about to implode, they want you to fix it - and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW.

Calm your caller down by addressing the real issue. First, let them know that you just need a few minutes to figure out what’s going on, and then you can try a few solutions. Let them know that you care about their time by saying, “I’m going to try to solve this as quickly as possible for you.” Like most relationships, do NOT tell them to “calm down.” Where in history has that ever worked out well?

Next, address the other elephant in the room. You’re the expert, so give it to them straight. Let them know that their account, assets, or files aren’t going anywhere. They’re safe on your servers while you two work together to regain access to them. This is a fear-based person and their anxiety is coming straight from expecting the worst. It’s your job to reassure them that their worst fears are nothing to sweat - even though you take them seriously. Never mock a customer, or say “oh that would never happen!” Instead recognize their concerns as valid, and then give them hard, cold facts as to why their fears won’t be realized.

The Mute Maverick

This customer knows what they want and they certainly know that they aren’t getting it - but they’re having a hard time articulating the problem in a way that’s easy for you to understand. They know they called in for a reason and know they need help, but the reality is they can’t describe the problem to save their life.

This customer might use phrases like, “I don’t know what it’s doing. I clicked the thing and then another thing popped up, and now it’s just not working.” Rather than telling them to break open a thesaurus or take an Engineering class, there are a few other things you can try.

First of all, thank goodness for CloudApp screen recordings, right? Why make this flustered customer stumble over their words when you can be on the same page with a video that explains it all in a matter of seconds.

Next, as you move through the problem-solution hunt, try to feed them as many helpful words as possible. Describe what you see when you look at the problem, then ask how theirs is different.

For the customers that are having a hard time articulating themselves, go back to the basics. Ask for colors and shapes rather than names of things. Your customer may not know what a “module” or “menu icon” looks like, but he can sure find the blue triangle or green heart on the page.

As a customer service agent, you’re a mind-reader, life-saver, and technological-savant to your customer. Embrace the mysticism they’ve bestowed on you and use these clever mind tricks to get Screaming Sally and Flustered Frank on your side.

We’d love to hear any customer meltdown tips you have for the rest of us? Make sure to tell us all the details in the comments below!

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