How to Handle a Challenging Customer on Live Chat

By Jeff Mason

Although the customer service landscape has shifted over the past several years, the core tenet of keeping customers happy will never change. In the e-commerce sector, creating thoughtful online experiences for visitors will always increase sales conversions, attract repeat visits, and generate long-term brand loyalty.

Live chat is a wonderful tool for doing this. It not only helps to connect with new customers, it also helps to keep them happy. With a single keystroke, customers have access to immediate assistance. This improves overall satisfaction levels and also achieves significant reductions in call center overhead.

However, live chat is different than speaking on the phone, and it requires a different kind of training for the customer service team. The tone of a speaker’s voice communicates so much more than words typed on a screen do. Instructions on the phone that sound friendly and helpful can come off as condescending and brusque when typed. It is important that customer service representatives understand chat etiquette and the importance of being extra polite.

The experience customers have with a company’s live support services will determine their opinion of the company – not just in the moment but forever. Therefore, make sure your customer service team is prepared. Provide them with the resources necessary to answer customer questions and make providing live help faster, more efficient, and more comprehensive: information, toggle screens, quick account lookups, and application tools.

In addition, your team can’t solve problems without listening skills – and listening skills (that is, reading between the lines) are just as crucial when using live chat as they are on the phone. Regardless of how your team delivers service, it all starts with a sharp focus on what the customer really wants or needs and then the ability to respond appropriately. This will minimize misunderstandings and assumptions that lead to longer service times and lower quality.

However, from time to time, live chat customer representatives, even after doing everything right, will encounter an angry or rude customer. In these situations it can be easy for the customer representative to lose his or her composure. When training your customer service representative team, here are several tips on how to handle these situations and come out on top.

Never Argue Back

It is natural for upset customers to express their anger, but some customers can take things too far and representatives may react defensively. This is a surefire way to lose a customer. Instead, representatives should help irate customers calm down. They should let them know that they understand their frustration and are there to help.

Check the Customer’s History

Is the complaint from someone who has been a regular customer for several years, or are they a first time buyer? Is this a recurring problem? If a customer service representative doesn’t have access to the customer’s information, it will be an uphill battle to make the customer happy.

Don’t Take it Personally

Although angry customers may take their frustration out on customer service representatives, a customer knows deep down that the representative is not the root cause of the problem. Customers should be allowed to vent about their problem, but representatives should be trained to not take this personally.

Kill Them with Kindness

Customer service representatives should be sincere, respectful, and understanding. They should show sympathy for the customer’s situation and express empathy for their frustration. By keeping calm and controlling their own anger, representatives may find that angry customers will calm down.

Know How to Apologize

There are times when a customer service representative should apologize to a customer. It can be difficult to be sincere, but for the sake of appeasing the customer, a genuine apology is often appreciated and effective.

Solve the Problem

Once customers have expressed their anger, representatives can ask questions to gather facts about the issue. The goal should be working with the customer to find a resolution that satisfies both sides. Solving the problem will turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy customer.

Working in customer service can be easy and rewarding when someone texts a compliment or presents a simple problem to solve. However, dealing with angry customers can be very challenging for customer service representatives. That is why it’s vital for representatives to know how to diffuse volatile situations and create long-term customers in the process.

Jeff Mason is the vice president of marketing for Velaro (, a provider of live chat software.

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