Texting An Angry Customer: Customer Communication Etiquette

I remember when there was a time when the only option to talk remotely with customers was with the telephone, and nothing makes me feel older than when I use the phrase, “I remember when there was a time”. But this is an excellent point when it comes to customer communication etiquette because new generations bring new tools and technology for us to choose from. Emails and texts are an excellent way, in some cases, to speed up communication and provide timestamp documentation. However, it has created a generation of passive-aggressiveness that avoids phone calls and direct confrontation. When it comes to customer service and handling customers who are otherwise unsatisfied for any reason, the new electronic methods of communication can cause more problems than they solve. 

Nothing makes me cringe as much as reading someone’s lengthy and litigious battle through an email or text thread. It is an escalation of, “I’m right. No, I’m right” that rarely, if ever, resolves. Not only that, but somehow it manages to get too personal too. I’m not sure why that happens, but when it comes to customers, that should never be the case. So when it comes to customer communication etiquette, let’s rank and review the best and not so great methods for having these difficult conversations.

 

  1. Face to face – This is obviously ideal when the opportunity presents itself, but for many of us who manage sales and service remotely, this opportunity seems to become less and less frequent. Face to face is best because it allows you to read the tones and cues of the customer to understand how to best address their needs.
  2. Telephone – The telephone, more often than not, should be the primary method for addressing customers who are unhappy. Even though the conversation may be an uncomfortable one for you, it will greatly shorten the cycle of assisting the customer. Handling their concern is obviously important to them, so it is best to do it in real-time. If the customer shared their concern with an email or text, it is still better to transfer the conversation to a telephone call unless they specify otherwise. Again, you can better gauge their tones and social cues. 
  3. Email – Emails are great because they give us time to think about what we want to say, calm our emotions (if necessary), and document what might be a sensitive matter. It may also be acceptable if this is what a customer prefers or if they are not available during business hours. But if the conversation starts to feel like it is getting out of hand, schedule a phone call to address the matter immediately. 
  4. Text – You should almost never respond to a text from an angry customer. A text from someone who is angry is often a trap they set to lead you down a path of confrontation and blame that you cannot control. Avoid this whenever possible. Pick up the phone and talk it out with them before it is too late.

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