In 2017, 3.8% of the global population suffered from an anxiety disorder. Excessive worrying and irritability are among the symptoms associated with anxiety. Needless to say, anxious customers tend to be more critical of things and less loyal.
At the same time, anxious and irritated customers are a part of a business, and they actually give you a chance to improve processes in your company.
How to identify an anxious customer?
Detecting a customer’s anxiety is the first step to establishing a rapport with them and ensuring positive and productive communication.
First, let’s see when customers tend to be the most anxious. Usually, anxiety builds when people need to make purchasing decisions under stress or in circumstances that are far from pleasant and relaxing.
For example, users of medical services are very likely to be anxious because they are stressed about their health condition and should make a choice that will directly influence their wellbeing.
People who turn to businesses for any repairs can also be distressed, as their interaction itself was caused by something being broken or malfunctioning.
So, how to read the room right and identify customer anxiety?
Signs of anxiety
There are a number of both verbal and non-verbal indicators showing that the person is under stress.
If you are in verbal contact with the customer, watch for the following signs:
If you are in face-to-face communication with the customer, you can also look for non-verbal indicators of anxiety:
If you see any of these signs in your customer, chances are they are in a state of anxiety. In this case, you need to be especially careful and attentive while interacting with such a customer.
Read on to see which communication techniques you can use to reduce anxiety and help the customer achieve satisfaction.
How to deal with anxious customers?
Anxious customers tend to experience difficulties in making decisions and this is why it is extremely important to inspire confidence in them and help them feel more trust towards your business.
Therefore, it is not a very good idea to steer such clients to self-service resources, even if they can resolve their issues on their own. When the customer expresses anxiety, human communication is the best.
Our recommendations below can help you build productive customer interactions while reducing anxiety and irritation. Integrate them into your set of customer service techniques to boost trust towards your brand.
1. Stay calm
Start inspiring confidence already with your voice and attitude. Even if the customer has a very good reason to be anxious and upset, make them feel that you can help them resolve their issues or doubts.
No matter if you are on the phone or in face-to-face contact with the customer, speak softly but confidently. Besides, assume a relaxed pose and use positive body language. Listen and speak calmly without excessive gestures. Give the customer enough space, however, pay close attention to what they are saying.
For instance, you could say: "My team is doing our best to solve your issue. To do that ASAP, we should be on the same side. Could you kindly change the way you build your conversation with us? It will only streamline the troubleshooting process." This is the least you could do when dealing with an anxious client.
Staying calm when dealing with anxiety involves not only customer service. You can be under pressure virtually in every industry. Here is one of my favorite TED Talks on the topic. Probably, it will give you valuable insights you could use communicating with your audience down the road:
2. Listen before offering a solution
Allow a customer to say everything they want to say. An anxious person needs to voice their concerns and worries and to know that they have been heard. Therefore, listen very carefully and show the customer that you are paying attention.
Remember that you don't want to interrupt a customer but prompt them to give more details. Nod or smile to encourage them to go on, ask leading questions.
Even in a live chat, you can practice listening techniques. Wait until your customer has provided all the details before suggesting possible solutions.
In any case, even if you already know how to help a customer, wait until they have said everything they wanted to say. If you suggest a solution before they give all the details they consider relevant, the customer may think the solution is not the most optimal one.
3. Express empathy, not sympathy
Empathy means stepping into the other person’s shoes and letting them know that you have felt the way they feel now. Sympathy, in its turn, means showing that you understand how they feel and feel sorry for them. While the difference may seem subtle, such nuances can matter a lot in establishing productive communication.
By being empathic, you can build a closer connection with the customer than by being sympathetic. Empathy puts you on the same level as your vis-à-vis and helps to establish trust.
A striking example here is the one from Notion – a project management company. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they shared a heartfelt release note (as well as sent the exact same email) to show customers they were in the same boat working fully from home. Plus, the team behind Notion informed clients on the recent features and updates to make it more convenient for remote workers.
4. Deliver on your word
Only promise what you can provide. No matter how much you might want to satisfy an anxious customer, never overpromise. Generally, this principle is one of the pillars of good customer support, not only when it concerns dealing with anxious customers.
If you make a promise that the company cannot fulfill, at the end of the day, it is going to be more destructive than the initial customer’s anxiety. A customer will demand what was promised and become even more annoyed and dissatisfied when their demands are rejected. The case may escalate even higher than before and end with multiple bad reviews about your service.
Let me show you what happens when a brand doesn't live up to its promise. Here is the example of Nick who made his purchase on Casafina – an online retailer of kitchenware, tableware, and gifts.
They said "new sales go live at 7 am and last for 72 hours" but Nick didn't receive his parcel when promised and, sure thing, complained. The company's answer was not-so-nice – instead of taking responsibility, they played the blame game:
It's sticking out a mile that Nick's experience leaves much to be desired. The whole story keeps getting worse, with the company's rep Ben palming off the promises and trying to clue Nick in on the latest updates on the package.
The lesson: a business should be as transparent as it could be with a customer trying hard to find a solution. Otherwise, it will see them waving goodbye.
5. Invest in emotional intelligence training
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand other people’s emotions. With this skill, your customer support team can be more attentive and emphatic when dealing with anxious or angry customers. As a result, their interactions will have a higher chance to lead to a finer customer satisfaction rating.
Special training sessions could help your team learn how to:
There is an ocean of training courses on the market. Choose the one that fits your schedule and budget requirements, and check that it covers the topics you need to make your customer service better.
For example, the Udemy platform offers a Great Customer Service with Emotional Intelligence course that you might find useful:
6. Use automation smartly
Do not exclude any automation from your customer service flow completely. On the contrary, when implemented in a smart way, automation can contribute to anxiety reduction, too.
Consider a ticketing system or a bot that will do the initial screening of customer requests. This way, each request will be routed to a corresponding subject-matter expert, who can resolve the problem upon the first contact.
Have you ever booked a flight and felt anxious because of seat reservation/luggage registration issues/travel insurance/ or other glitches? I bet you wished for a quick problem solution.
Let's analyze the example of Norwegian Airlines and its way of incorporating automation to achieve ultimate results (and save both their and customers' nerves). The company leveraged an AI-fueled chatbot from Kindly which helped them:
The key thing is, although, to connect the customer with an agent within the shortest time possible. A long hold time or ineffective communication with a bot can build up the person’s stress, which is exactly what you should be trying to avoid. But when an anxious person sees that their issue is in the hands of a professional, they become more relaxed and confident.
A good business helps its customers through good and bad
It would've been great if we only had happy customers who come to express their joy and gratitude. In reality, though, customers are more likely to come with problems than with thanks. It is up to you to make them feel understood and supported at times of stress and anxiety.
Your customers will definitely remember how you managed to help them and the brilliant solution you found. Such memories can stay longer than memories of a smooth experience, so make sure you do all you can to offer empathy and support when customers need them the most.