Handling Rude or Angry Callers

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One of the hardest, and somewhat scariest, situations a telephone operator can handle is a rude or angry caller. Every company has them and any person that answers a company phone will encounter them at some point. Many times they can come out of nowhere and it can be difficult to keep the caller focused on what they need/want. But depending on how the operator responds can be the difference between saving and losing that customer.

Stay Calm

Staying calm with an angry or rude called can be one of the hardest tasks a phone operator must do. Our natural reflect to anger or rudeness is to become defensive and lash back. However, if we show our emotions, especially negative ones, it only makes the caller angrier. Remember that the customer just wants to be heard and wants to have their problem resolved. So even if the customer starts speaking rudely or becomes angry with you, using your favorite tip or trick to help you stay calm and you’ll be able to help the caller once they have begun to cool down.

Tips for staying calm:

  • Never take what the caller says personally
  • Take deep, relaxing breaths
  • Empathize with the customer
  • Speak in calm, assuring tones

Listen to Their Needs


When we encounter rude or angry callers, our first instinct is to stop listening to what they have to say due to their poor attitude. However, this is not the key. The caller may be upset, but they still want to be assured that someone will hear their complaint and help them get what they need. As the telephone operator, it is important to listen to what the caller has to say and try to identify what they are seeking. Many times the upset caller will tell us exactly what they need, but will mask it with harsh words and raw emotions. It is your job to put these feelings aside and let the customer know you can still help them get what they need.


  • Empathize with the caller’s needs
  • Remember that their needs/concerns are important too
  • Identify what the caller is asking for

Never Interrupt

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When a person is interrupted while they are speaking, it can cause them to become irritated or frustrated. But when a caller is angry or rude, interrupting them will only make the caller angrier, causing the situation to worsen. Although it may sound counter-productive, the best method to use with callers such as these is to let them speak until they begin to slow down and eventually finished with their rant. During this process, listen empathetically and continue to acknowledge their concerns. Once the caller has finished speaking, or to least pauses for a continued response, then you can begin to offer ways you can help the caller and what you can do for them. In many cases, the customer just wants to know their complaints or problems are heard and acknowledged by someone in the company. Once they feel like someone has heard their concerns, they will be more open to accepting some sort of solution available.

Identify What You Can Do for Them

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When a customer is angry or upset, the last thing they want to hear from the company is what can’t be done for them. This can cause them to become angrier and more upset. Once you have identified why the caller is upset, it is time to offer a real solution. By identifying what you can do for the caller, rather than what you can’t do, you are assuring them that you are there to help and can help them resolve the problem they are having. Give them realistic options that can actually be done, such as speaking with a manager, filing a complaint with customer service or receiving help with the product/item/service. If you’re able to solve the problem, do what you can to do so. If the caller needs to speak with someone else, take the time to ensure they reach the appropriate person and can go to the next step of reaching a solution.

Case Study

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Georgia received a call from a client that was not happy about the product he received in the mail. Mr. Jones continued to complain about the quality of the product and was angry that he paid so much for it, only to be broken in the mail. Georgia listened to Mr. Jones’s complaints and patiently waited for him to finish speaking. Once Mr. Jones was silent, Georgia apologized for the poor product he had received and acknowledged how he could be upset about that. Georgia told Mr. Jones that she would be happy to offer him a replacement product or a full refund. Mr. Jones was happy about the option of receiving a refund and asked to send his money back. Georgia acknowledged his choice and told Mr. Jones she would happily connect him to the refund department. With Mr. Jones still on the line, Georgia called Rene in the refund department and told her the situation. Once Rene had Mr. Jones’s information, Georgia conferenced Mr. Jones to Rene and told him she would be happy to help him receive his refund.