4 ways to deal with furious users

When your department is the one that handles technology and the problems that come with it, not every exchange is going to be pleasant and civil.  

Users are going to be stressed, unhappy and maybe even unable to do their work – and that’s going to lead to tension in some cases.

What can your techs do when they feel a conversation start to go south? Here are four pieces of advice to pass along to your help desk pros and other staffers.

1. Let them vent … a little

Technology problems are going to result in people feeling frustrated, angry and more than a little helpless. Let them voice those concerns. It can even help to acknowledge the situation and how they’re feeling.

Something as simple as saying, “Trust me, I know how frustrating this is, and we’re going to fix it” lets users know you’re on their side, you’ve heard their complaints and you’re working toward a solution.

That said, if the conversation gets too heated or personal, techs should excuse themselves and report the situation to you or another manager.

2. Repeat what they say

Sometimes a user doesn’t have the vocabulary to express what the issue is. Or they may think they know what they’re talking about, but are using phrases or jargon incorrectly.

Repeat what you think users are saying in plain English after they describe a problem. This will give them the opportunity to confirm the message or correct it.

Better yet: Have them show you. If you see what they’re trying to do and are unable to, you can get to work on a solution.

3. Be realistic, not optimistic

Users will want a timeline for when their issue will be solved. They may not like the time frame they’ve been given, but it’s important that they actually know what to expect and when.

Saying “We’ll get on this right away” tells them when the solution will start, but not when it will be in place. On the other hand, “We’ll have it back to you soon” doesn’t tell them much of anything at all.

And in cases where you don’t know exactly when the problem can be fixed, explain what steps you’ll take before you can get back to them.

4. Know when to end the conversation

If users aren’t done venting or complaining when there’s nothing new to say, suggest that you can fix the problem, then find them as soon as it’s done. Or take the laptop back to the IT department to work on it in peace.

In the rare cases where that doesn’t work, a firm but polite, “I don’t think we can continue this conversation until things cool down” should be enough to stop the situation from getting out of hand.

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