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How to Handle Difficult Customers on the Phone

An English Conversation







In most cases, customers have good reasons for their complaints. When face-to-face, the Customer Service Rep has more advantage of using body language. On the telephone, the Customer Service Rep needs to have a pleasant voice besides excellent listening and speaking skills. Role play with somebody using the conversation below. Read Recommendations.


Customer: I've received the same statement with 50 dollars overcharge again. I called up twice last month for the same problem.

Customer Rep: Good morning, Madam. This is Ray. I understand you're having a problem. But I need your name first. What's your name please?

Customer: All they do is ask for name. Of course, I'll give you my name. But I also need your name. What's your name?

Customer Rep: My name is Ray.

Customer: You don't sound American. That's an American name.

Customer Rep: Ray is my business name, Madam. I need your name in order to help you.

Customer: Ok!. My name is Sera Dolores. I'm calling from Chicago.

Customer Rep: Thank you, Ms. Dolores. Give me one minute, I'll pull up your account.

Customer. I hope you will not make me hang on here for ages.

Customer Rep: No, I won't, Ms. Dolores. Here is your account information. I see here a 50-dollar charge for late payment of the last two bills. You've paid two bills together, Ms. Dolores. But they were paid late last month.

Customer: What'd you mean I paid them late? I paid them last month together.

Customer Rep. Exactly so. You paid one bill one-month late and the other toward the end of the month instead of before the second week. We've charged 50 dollars instead of only 25 dollars because we received your payment late. We received your payment after the late charge was already imposed on your account.

Customer: How come? I always pay my bills by the end of the month. I never get late payment charge?

Customer Rep: Ms. Dolores, you didn't pay your June bill until the third week of July. And you made two payments on August 22 for 670 dollars.

If the customer is right, apologize for the problem and tell the customer your company will correct the problem. If you are sure of the solution and authorized to take immediate action, take action.

Customer: This is ridiculous! No one called me.

Customer Rep: I'm sorry that you've paid late charges, Ms. Dolores. But, I can ...

Customer: All you can do is to apologize. I have paid my bills!

Customer Rep: If you let me finish, Ms. Dolores, I'll be able to help you. Ok?

Customer: Ok. Go ahead.

Customer Rep: I will remove one late-charge for 25 dollars because you paid the second bill within the month although it was one week late.

Customer: Well. What can I say? It's better than nothing.

Customer Rep:. You will receive a credit for 25 dollars in your next statement in September. Is there anything else I can do for you, Ms. Dolores?

Customer: No. Thank you.

Customer. You're well come, Ms. Dolores. Thank you for calling HSBC. Have a good day.


face-to-face: in person; talking or meeting with somebody; opposite of online communication, communication over the phone; internet communication in person communication. It is used for the idea of having a person-to-person but not online, telephone or in writing. Face-to-face communication may have one advantage over telephone or online communication. You see the person and his or her body language, hear his/her voice.

body language: the way we look, talk, sound, listen; the way we use facial expressions, hand gestures, and etc.

handle: verb. to attend a situation. Example: You handle customers effectively. You handle problems with anger.

in most cases: adverb. most of the time

role play: idiomatic verb. act, play a role

charge: billing the customer

overcharge: noun. billing customers more than services or products they buy

statement: noun. in this conversation, a bank document customers receive every month, It lists all the transactions of customer's accounts.

sound: to voice. If some one sounds nice, that means, the way a person speaks is nice. If someone sounds angry, that means the way that persons speak sounds angry. If someone sounds anxious, the way the person speaks sounds anxious.

pull up: to bring to view or front; open the account

ridiculous: adjective. lacking common sense

business name:noun a name other than a person's real name. It's common practice to use a business name in formal communication.

impose: to put a charge on the bill

better than nothing: phrase. It means this: having something is better than having nothing at all.

hang on: idiomatic verb. to continue to stay in a situation. Example: Hang on. I'll be right with you means this: wait for me to return. I will return shortly.

for ages: informal English. a long time. It is used to express frustration over the length of time in a situation.

keep one's calm: to be able to stay calm in a situation

convince: to persuade; make a person agree with you

in the light of: adverb concerning, considering

episode: the story


Never argue with the customer.

Be calm.

Be professional.

Listen carefully.

Always explain details clearly. If necessary, explain the details but in a concise language. Do not ramble around unnecessary details. Give the customer a chance to digest your details, and, for that, pose to ask if the customer is following you. If the customer is not following you, do not linger on the same expression but change it to more clear and precise language. If the customer is following your explanations and sound satisfied, you may ask a new question in order to move on to the next step, and finally close it. See in the conversation above how the Customer Rep provides details to Ms. Dolores. The Customer Rep uses a clear and concise English; provides all the details over the late charges, but the Customer Rep never overloads the customer Ms. Dolores with unnecessary details.

Do not try to prove the customer is wrong but you are right.

If the customer is angry and interrupts you when talking, remind the customer politely you need to finish.

Do not lecture the customer over how wonderful your company is, instead be empathetic. Express your empathy.

Offer solutions if you have any. If you don't have any solutions, offer what else you can do: transfer the call to your supervisor; offer a written immediate answer with a solution. For example, offer to send an email with the solution or call back.


In the above conversation, the Customer Service Rep followed our recommendations above: The Customer Service Rep (CSR) has never argued with the customer, Ms. Dolores. The CSR kept his or her calm. When Ms. Dolores sounded angry the CSR responded politely but firmly. The CSR listened and then answered Ms. Dolores' questions. The CSR presented evidence for the overcharge and could convince the customer at the end. In the light of this episode, the CSR has acted professionally.









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