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Call Center: How to Handle Irate Members

Is the world crumbling to pieces?

No, but if you didn’t have access to a window, you may have thought it was after a call with an irate member.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an angry member phone call, I think you’d agree it’s one of the more difficult parts of working within an association. In a perfect world, mistakes wouldn’t happen and everyone would agree with every strategic decision. Although it’s important to aim to please, for some members – especially in a larger or professional association – it’s just not possible. That is why it is important to arm your team with the right tools.

What can you do?

Our call center team receives tens of thousands of phone calls each year. And through our years of experience, we’re able to provide our association clients valuable insight for navigating tough conversations. Here are the five things we always recommend:

  1. Remain Calm: Never argue with a member; instead try to empathize with them. The caller will feed off of your emotions. If you start getting amped up, the caller will follow suit. If you speak to your members with a smile on your face, your positivity will transmit through the phone. This small action can alter the tone of the entire conversation.


  1. Listen: Why are they irate? Is the member calling about a mistake caused by the association, or a personal preference they just don’t care for? It is very important to quickly discern between the two. This will help you figure out the best way to address the issue at hand. Mistakes made by the association that negatively impact a member need to be dealt with swiftly. The best thing to do in those situations is make them feel heard. Do not interrupt them. If their problem is a preference issue, let them know that their recommendations are being passed along for consideration.


  1. Don’t take it personally: Although it may feel like it, you are most likely not the source of the member’s anger. Try your best to remember that. With that in mind, however, there is a line. If a member has become verbally abusive, you will need to professionally clarify that mutual respect is required to continue conversing over the phone. Most times when a member crosses the line, they do so without thought. Once you reestablish the line, they usually change their tactic.


  1. Avoid the hold button: Irate callers don’t want to be bounced around from desk to desk or put on hold. They want someone to efficiently deal with their problem. In cases where you don’t have the knowledge to help the caller, this button can’t be avoided. Make sure the next person you send them to is the right person to give them a solution. If the needed individual is unavailable at the time, take thorough notes on the situation and let the member know they will be contacted shortly. Members want to feel that their time is important to you; don’t waste it.


  1. Find a solution: You need to assure the member that you take their feedback seriously, and if possible, steps will be made to rectify the situation. Provide them with options. Nothing makes an irate caller feel more supported then having several options to choose from in aiding the solution. One happy member can grow into a membership full of happy members.

Want to know how our trained call center can help you? Contact us today!

Article written by:

Molly Costilow


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