Telephone Skills for Customer Service

Handle the different caller behaviors

Every caller is different. Experienced customer service providers learn to recognize these differences and adjust their responses accordingly in order to provide better service.

Let’s look at ways to handle the five different types of caller behavior often heard on the telephone:

  • Be direct with the assertive caller
  • Relate to the angry caller
  • Question the passive caller
  • Manage the talkative caller
  • Inform the analytical caller

Be Direct with the Assertive Caller

Assertive or demanding people are pretty easy to recognize on the telephone because they are quick to show authority, demand action, and usually get to the point immediately. There is seldom any mystery as to what they want because they make it clear. They spend little time with social or other non-business conversation. Their calls will generally be shorter than most because they want to get business taken care of.

When dealing with an assertive/demanding customer on the telephone, you may need to raise your assertiveness level to simply manage the conversation. If your voice is soft, raise it slightly. Be direct and to the point in your statements. Keep the non-business conversation to a minimum. Be assertive, but be careful not to allow your assertiveness level to match or exceed the caller’s. This could produce an argument.

Relate to the Angry Caller

Angry callers are a challenge even to the most experienced customer service provider. The task can be difficult but also very rewarding, especially when an angry customer calms down and actually becomes friendly.

When a customer complains, offer your concern that he or she is upset, but do not take aggressive or hostile comments personally. Remain calm, and avoid getting caught up in the emotion.

When you have telephone contact with an irate customer, several important skills will help you manage the conversation:

  1. Stay objective. Do not participate in the caller’s emotion.
  2. Listen. It is important to understand the caller’s problem or concern. Sometimes it is valuable to let the caller vent his emotions, e.g., let him tell you how unhappy he is with your organization.
  3. Relate. Apologize in a general way or in a broad sense.
  4. Propose an action plan. Offer a solution that will solve the problem.
  5. Remain courteous.

Question the Passive Caller

It is usually easier to provide service for a passive customer. Satisfied customers are often passive. Experience has told them they do not need to push or complain. They know they will receive the service they need.

Because passive customers usually don’t complain, we assume they are satisfied with the service received. It is not the nature of most passive people to demand service or to express anger. If they are dissatisfied with your service, they may simply quit calling. In order to discover your level of service, you may need to periodically question the passive caller. Prompt him into talking about his level of satisfaction.

Passive customers often want a relationship with their service provider. For example, they will normally exchange some social conversation during the business call. It is important to participate in order to build a stronger relationship with this customer.

Manage the Talkative Caller

Talkative people are often interesting and enjoyable, but on the telephone they can take up a lot of time.

To avoid losing valuable time, a conversation with a talkative customer must be managed.

There are three proven skills that will work for you:

  1. Ask closed questions
  2. Use space control
  3. Provide minimal response.

Inform the Analytical Caller

The analytical caller is primarily focused on accuracy. He or she wants the facts of the situation and is often interested in a detailed response.

For example, it might be acceptable to tell an assertive customer that you will take care of the problem and call him or her back, and leave it at that. But the analytical type wants to know the who, what, why, when, and how of the situation.

When analytical callers have to make a decision, they want lots of information. Whereas assertive customers might be quick to say yes or no to your product or service, analytical customers will want time to think and analyze so they can be accurate.


As you’ve learned, customers come in all shapes in sizes with their unique problems and needs. But there are ways you can get to know these needs, manage the discussion, and create a mutually agreeable solution. Through effective communication, you will be able to satisfy your customers. As you continue to learn this, remember how important it is that you:

  • Listen to your customer
  • Create a win to win situation
  • Handle the different caller behaviors