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February 9, 2015

Talking to an Emotional Customer or Client on the Phone

Learning how to interact with difficult clients or customers is an ongoing skill building activity. The video below showcases four different customer interactions. Though these exact  interactions may not happen in the IT world, they do provide good opportunities for listening comprehension. Take a moment to read through the short notes I present on the four interactions before or while watching the video.  

Interaction 1: Customer Complains About a Mattress
The most notable feature of this example is when the customer service agent says, "I didn't mean you weren't telling the truth, I meant to say that I was surprised that we did that."

What the agent has done here is reflect back to the customer his frustration and clarify what he really meant, as his earlier message was misunderstood by the customer. This is quite direct communication, especially compared to how most Indians may use language. Responding like this shows the customer that you are listening, are empathetic and are interested to help them find a resolution. That is the most important part. 

Interaction 2: Package Not Yet Delivered 
The operator says all the right words, but sounds very robotic. While she may be listening, the unwavering tone of her voice may be taken as rude or uncaring by an American customer. It could even be considered condescending (the operator thinks she's better than the customer). In some places in India, it's considered acceptable for a service provider or agent to use authoritative tones, be firm, direct, and to the point without adding in any feeling as this operator is doing. However, if this happens with US clients or customers, they will consider this to be disrespectful because Americans want to work together as partners and not play on-upman-ship (acting more superior due to status). 

Interaction 3: Portable Media Player 
This interaction, in my opinion, is one of the better ones as she does modulate her voice more. However, I feel the customer would be more upset and angry in real life. They really toned down the customer emotion in this one, I think. At the end of the call, the operator says, "Have a nice day, sir." While this is a part of a normal call script, it would have been nicer to have a transitional phrase before it like, "I'm really sorry, sir, that we couldn't provide you the best solution right now. If you decide later that you'd like to order the HDMI cable from us, we are open twenty-four by seven to help you. Thank you."  

Jennifer Kumar helps your India based teams communicate with American and native English speakers with more empathy and cultural relevance to build better cross-cultural business relationships. Contact us for more information. 

Related Posts: 
Tips on Impressing American Customers 
When to apologize to an American 
Responding to Thank You

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.