2. Listen to Emotion without Emotion
Listen to the inflections and emphasis that the customer places on specific topics to identify the emotional catalyst. Listen to the emotion as well as the words. This will help you to identify the specific item or items that need primary attention. Resolving a technical issue may be only partially effective if it does not also address the customer emotional concerns. It may not be possible to completely resolve the emotional distress, but it is appropriate to acknowledge it.
Imagine that a customer experienced a technical malfunction when downloading digital images of a special event, wedding or family vacation. The technical issue may be related to hardware or software, but the emotional distress is related to the risk of losing precious memories. While it is necessary to correct the technical issue, it is also appropriate to acknowledge the risks that create the emotional response. Try to preserve the precious memories or at least explain why they can not be retrieved, but do not ignore the emotional catalyst. Do not respond with emotion.
Remember that the customer anger is not directed at you personally, even if the customer language is directed at you. If the customer language is attacking and borderline abusive, it is because the customer is looking for acknowledgement and response to the emotional distress as well as the technical or administrative issues. It may be necessary to repeatedly acknowledge the customer emotion to diffuse the situation and reassure the customer that you are attentive to the importance of the emotional distress as well as the technical issue.