One of the questions that often comes up at the beginning of credit control training courses is how to deal with difficult, angry and downright abusive customers. Luckily it doesn’t happen very often and when it does it can be upsetting to say the least. I have witnessed tears among my staff members on a few occasions over the years and it can really ruin your whole day! These abusive calls are the reason so many people keep away from credit control, because they are afraid that they will be treated in this manner on a regular basis.
After many years I can assure you this type of call is the rare exception. If you are finding you are getting more than your fair share of abusive calls, I would respectfully suggest that you take a long hard look and what you are doing, listen carefully to what you are saying and how you are saying it and maybe more importantly what the customer is hearing...
If you start a call in a tone that is perceived as aggressive you will get aggression.
Now on the basis that you are doing everything correctly and the customer is the problem, there are a number of steps you have to go through.
Step 1 – Listen carefully. I know it can be hard to get past the aggression and the tone and sometimes the colourful language they use. If you are listening with a clear intention, that might make it easier. So hold the phone away from your ear if you have to and listen to discover if the customer has a genuine grievance or if they are simply venting.
If they have a genuine grievance and you or your company has clearly done something wrong then you have to apologise. If for no other reason than it will take the wind completely out of their sails, they were not expecting that response from you, so that puts you in a stronger position.
If they haven’t got any issues at all and the content of the abuse is along the lines of “How dare you ring me, who do you think you are, don’t you talk to me like that...” and so on – this is completely different and in simple terms that customer does not have any money. They are using their aggression and rudeness as a shield to protect them and to keep whatever money they now have. If they can upset you to the point you hang up, they have won that round and they are having a laugh at your expense! If they can intimidate you to such an extent that you are afraid to ring back ever again then they have done a great job.
Always remember that your job is to get the money. There will be many obstacles and barriers in your way and the job of a professional credit controller is to get past all the barriers, all the excuses, all the reasons and get to the money in the quickest possible time. Anything else is a waste of time.
Next week I will continue with this topic and I’ll give you six strategies for success in dealing with this type of person