No matter what industry you’re in, or how long your business has been around, bad customer experiences are inevitable.

It’s just part of the process of working with the public. Unfortunately, your business’s reputation relies on your ability to meet customer needs. You need to have a plan in place in order for you to deal with them quickly and efficiently.

Working with an answering service. Working with an answering service can help minimize a lot of call problems. By having someone there to answer your phone 24/7, screen callers and route them to the party that can help them, you’ll minimize a lot of frustration that incoming callers experience. No one wants to call in to a business and get a voicemail answering machine. Using a live virtual receptionist will help your company head in the right direction when it comes to customer service.

But occasionally, you’ll receive an incoming call that will be just plain difficult. From a missed delivery to a bad experience with one of your employees, there are plenty of reasons for a customer to be upset. When they call in to complain and get the issue resolved, you need to be there to help.

Here’s what to do to turn the most difficult calls into excellent customer service:

1. Your first rule is to listen.

As much as you’d like to defend your company or return answers in the same tone of voice that your caller is using, it’s important that you listen. Don’t talk over the caller. Don’t argue. Just listen. This is important for two reasons. You need to make them feel supported and valued – and you need to gather all of the information on the situation so you know how to respond.

2. Keep your voice low and calm.

Speak slowly and lowly no matter what. Even if the frustrated customer reaches a loud volume, don’t match them. The louder they get, the softer you need to be. Eventually, your calmness will spread to them and you’ll be able to speak pleasantly to one another about the situation.

3. Empathize with their situation.

It’s important to see the situation from the customer’s point of view – and make sure they hear that you are empathizing. You can summarize and repeat the issue to the caller to emphasize that you understand. You can also try verbally “nodding” during the call – words like “I understand” “wow” and “I’m sorry” throughout their explanation of the situation will show them you’re understanding.

For more in this two-part series, read part two here.