If you deal with difficult or angry customers on the phone, you know that the biggest problem is that they tend to go on and on, don’t listen, and dominate the conversation, which means you can’t get a word in edgewise. This consumes lots of time, and of course, it’s hard to help a customer who won’t let you talk.

There’s a simple technique that you can use on the phone to get the customer to stop talking. It’s called “silence is golden”. Like any kind of conversation, telephone conversations have rules. One of those rules is that when one person is talking, the other person sends signals to the “talker” that they are listening, and still there. This is necessary because the parties can’t see each other.

The only way to know there is a person on the other end is if the other person makes some sort of noise, usually “yes”, “uh-huh”, “I understand”, etc. Consistent with our self-defense principles, you do not want to follow this rule.

The best way to get a person to stop talking on the phone is simply to say nothing at all. If you can avoid breathing into the phone, or if you can exclude any noise getting through from your end, this is even better.

Eventually, the person on the other end will stop, and say something like “Hello, hello, are you there?”, and pause for a moment. This gives you the opportunity to say something like, “Yes, I was listening to you. Let me see if I understand what you are saying…” By repeating back what the difficult or angry customer said, not only are you back in charge, it also gives the customer time to cool off.

Now that you are back in charge, you can help fix the problem.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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  1. john

    It almost seems counter-intuitive to stay silent, and I definitely see the psychology behind this.

    This is some sound advice.

  2. The same applies to selling—oft times the less you say the more you sell. It is not what you say that matters; it is what they think.


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