Agency 101 – How to Handle an Upset Customer

I received an email last week about how to take care of an upset customer. This email reminded me of a great article my VP of Operations, Amanda McFall wrote a few years about on Handling a Hostile Customer.

Working in insurance, I know you have received hostile calls and have had very upset customers in your agency.

It happens.

A claim didn’t go as the customer hoped, a request wasn’t handled correctly, premium increases, finding items weren’t covered in their policy, etc. The list goes on and on.

In the email I received from Keith Lee, a dear friend of mine for more than a decade who I spent 3 years with in Dan Kennedy’s Mastermind group and the Creator of the Make-You-Happy Management System and author of The Happy Customer Handbook, he suggests using the L.E.A.R. method.

  • Listen and don’t interrupt.
  • Empathize with something like, “I can understand why you’re upset.”
  • Ask - “What can I do to make you happy?”
  • Resolve - Unless what the client asks for is ridiculous, DO IT!

In Amanda’s article, she went by Nancy Friedman’s teachings. Nancy is the President or Telephone Doctor Customer Service training and has been a friend of BGIs for over 2 years now.

Nancy teaches the A.S.A.P. technique in her book, Customer Service (finally) Defined: Ideas, Tips, Techniques and Skills You Can Use Now & Forever.

  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings and apologize for the inconvenience the customer has encountered. Don’t wait to find out what happened or whose fault it is – it doesn’t matter. You have a mad customer that needs assistance.
  • Sympathize and empathize with the customer. Don’t say, “I understand” that is very generic and they can easily come back with “No you don’t”. Instead, try saying, “I can understand why you are upset” and explain what you are going to do to help them.
  • Accept 100% responsibility for the situation. This is tough, especially when you probably had absolutely nothing to do with the situation but it is critical. In being in Customer Service it is your job to handle the customer’s service request and help initiate a solution.
  • Prepare to help. Immediately! Begin by re-introducing yourself. Usually a person will not remember your name when they first hear it because they are upset. If you have a title, give it to them. If your title implies status, it helps. Example, “I’m the Office Manager” or also include your length of tenure, “I’ve been here 7 years and I know I can help you.” This will put the person at ease thinking, “Yes, I am finally talking to someone that can help.

No matter which technique/method you use, as you see they are very similar, have a great attitude! Customers can sense when someone is insincere.

Want more from Keith or Nancy?

Keith Lee –
Nancy Friedman -