Positive Customer Service Responses for 3 Thorny Tirades

by Cathy Miller on August 11, 2014

customer service blue glossy web iconAt times, customer service appears to be an unlikely pairing of words.

Unless you equate “service” to do-it-yourself.

Our self-serve world includes self-serve solutions.

  • Forums of users in the same turbulent sea of need
  • Customer service agents without answers
  • Frequently Asked Questions that do not fit your problem

The business that stands out is the one with great customer service.

Unfortunately, that may be true because good customer service is so hard to find. Knowing how to respond elevates your business to elite status.

Positive Customer Service Words

The words you use have a powerful impact on your customer’s impression of your service. Staying positive is easy when you receive a compliment or encounter a smiling customer.

You’re challenged when your business is the recipient of a social media slap. Or an angry caller.

  • Whether the complaint is fair does not matter
  • Your response does

The following are 3 thorny tirades with suggested positive customer service responses.

#1 – The Social Media Salvo

Social media supplies a hard-hitting arsenal for sharing complaints. Imagine being the intended target for the following tweet.

Customer Service Tweet

How many businesses do you know would ignore the taunting tweet?

Consider the following alternative.

  • Send a Direct Message, if connected
  • Respond with an apology and direct them to a specific contact to resolve their issue

@_________ I apologize. Please contact me directly so I can help you with your concerns. Thank you.

Offering a connection to a specific person is more powerful than referring the individual to customer service. After all, customer service is the problem.

  • Respond quickly
  • Professionally
  • Personally

#2 – The Product That Doesn’t Work

Sometimes a product not working is in the eye (or hands) of the customer. For example, a non-techie person may not know how to install your product or the steps to make a feature work.

Of course, like it or not, there are times when your product does not work.

  • Again, the validity of the complaint does not matter
  • In the customer’s eyes, your product is broken

How do you fix it?

The first step is in how you respond.

I’m sorry. I know that is very frustrating. Would you like me to send a replacement or would you prefer we refund your account?

If you can fix the problem (like the example of the installation problem), offer to walk the individual through the process.

I’m sorry. I know that is very frustrating. I would be happy to walk you through the installation. Would you like to try that first?

Have you picked up on the pattern?

  • Apologize
  • Empathize
  • Help

3. The Seriously %#@*&! Off Customer

Answering a call from an angry customer is similar to a fire’s backdraft. Digital interactions like an online rant or nasty email also singe.

Customer service representatives earn their stripes with these complaints. The professional who refrains from taking it personally is a rock star.

  1. Allow the individual to rant/vent/release
  2. Let the person know you are listening
  3. Prove it by repeating their issues
  4. Ask if you got it right
  5. Apologize – empathize – help

Stay calm and accept responsibility.

I am very sorry we let you down with this product. I will do everything I can to resolve this quickly for you.

Positive Persuasion

Positive words = positive outcome.

Eliminate not our fault responses.

Good customer service accepts responsibility, regardless of fault. Beware of words that imply the customer is at fault.

  • Try − I am very sorry we let you down − instead of −
  • I am very sorry you have a problem
  • The customer may infer he or she is the problem from the second statement

Replace negative words.

Negative words trigger more negativity, especially in an already angry person.

Put a positive spin on negative words and phrases.

  • Negative  The refund won’t be available immediately. It takes about 3-4 days for the bank to process.
  • Positive − I will process the refund now so your bank will have it as soon as possible for its 3-4-day processing cycle.

End on a positive note.

The following are a few phrases that leave customers smiling (or at least calmer).

  • I appreciate your patience
  • Thank you for your help in resolving this issue
  • Have I answered all your questions?
  • Is there anything else I can help you with today?

But above all − be sincere. Customers spot a phony every time.

What tips do you have for handling thorny tirades?


Helping you Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours – contact me for help with your business writing needs.


BigStock Photo Credit

Check out the second post of this three-part series, Customer Service Warning: When Speed Kills.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wayman August 11, 2014 at 8:04 am

I may send a link to this page when I get poor customer service! Excellent.
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Cathy Miller August 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

Feel free, Anne. 😉
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Paula Hendrickson August 11, 2014 at 8:22 am

As the Complaint Letter Queen I strive to stay calm, and always take a moment to tell the customer service people something along the lines of, “I’m obviously upset about this, but I know you aren’t personally responsible for the problems, so I apologize if it sounds like I’m taking it out on you.” Of course, any customer service people who do the opposite of your tips get my full wrath before I demand to speak to a supervisor.

One of my biggest customer service complaints is when cable or satellite companies try to diminish the value of their subscribers by calling us “customers.” Customers buy, rent, or lease a product or service. Subscribers pay for a product (magazine, newspaper, etc…) or a service (cable, satellite) that also generates ad revenue and/or savings for the company, based on the number of paid subscribers. Whenever I deal with my cable company’s customer service people, I always make sure they know I know the true value of their subscribers.

I also don’t like being asked to take a Twitter complaint to DM before they even ask for specifics. It always seems like they’re trying to shut you up. I only use DMs for exchanging contact information, then “forget” to reply via DM and keep everything else public. (Including a thank you if they can resolve the issue.) I guess that’s my own version of transparency.
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Cathy Miller August 11, 2014 at 9:59 am

I agree, Paula, apologies should be public. The only thing about DM is that I realize not every follower wants to see a running dialog. That, and as you point out, few of us want to tweet our contact information.

Thanks to the Queen for visiting her subjects. 😉
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