At some point in your career it happened to you.

You had that one caller who was out of control, incredibly angry and ready to let you know. Calls like this are common for anyone involved in customer service, unfortunately. The good news is that they don’t have to all end worse than they started. In fact, you can turn a bad customer call into a great one.

Turn Bad Phone Calls into Opportunities

The truth of the matter is that most of the time when someone calls and they’re really seeing red, they’re not mad at the customer service representative that they’re speaking to.

They’re mad because they’re struggling at work or the kids are all sick or their grandma is in the hospital. That’s why empathy has to be number one when you detect an angry customer.

But, if you’re having a hard time empathizing with the screaming person on the other end of the phone, try these three ways to turn the call around:

Hear them out. Believe it or not, customers who are angry aren’t usually really angry at you. If you let them yell it out, you can usually calm them and then get to the bottom of their real issue. It’s important that you don’t talk over them or try to interrupt, these behaviors will only fuel that rage and possibly result in a permanently salty ex-customer.

Apologize, even if you’re right. It’s important to say you’re sorry, even if you want to yell right back. If your company messed up, own it and take responsibility. If your company didn’t, tell the customer that you’re sorry they feel the way they do or that your company has failed to delight them.

This is a slippery slope, because you really have to be sincere in this apology, otherwise you’re just antagonizing them. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute before you respond, you might be equally angry if the same sequence of events were to have happened to you.

Work together to find a solution. Angry customers aren’t just calling to complain. Often, they want a solution to their issue, even if they don’t say so right out front. This is where you’ll have to use those mind-reading skills you learned with suggestive sales.

When you think you know what the problem is, verify that you’re correct. For example, “Mrs. Brown, I understand that you’re frustrated because you ordered a yellow top and received a pair of brown pants.” Then, offer some solutions to get the conversation going. “I can send out another yellow top right away or I can issue you a credit for our mistake. Which would you prefer?” Once the customer realizes you’re actually very willing to work with them, they’ll often cool down and accept your attempt to help.

No matter how rude or condescending a caller may be, it’s important to keep your cool when you’re on a red-hot call. However, if you find you really can’t stop yourself from taking these calls personally, you should look into hiring a virtual receptionist or an answering service to handle your telephone customers.

Since an answering service isn’t personally invested in your business, there’s no reason for them to take an angry customer to heart and their professional training will have given them the tools they need to defuse that metaphorical reputation bomb waiting to explode.