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Customer Complaints Over the Phone: How to Handle Them Greatly

Before we walk you through a seven-step process and tactics for handling difficult phone calls, let’s explore your beliefs and intentions around customer complaints.

your belief needs to be: Complaints are good. At least if someone calls on the phone and complains, we have a chance to do something about it or influence the opinion of the caller in a positive way. The worst complaints are the ones we don’t listen to.

Think of complaints as a gift; It’s just that sometimes the wrapping paper these gifts come in is not attractive or appealing. Only when you unwrap them with care and grace do you learn the true value of their contents.

Be curious instead of defensive.

your intention it’s making your customer feel good about taking the time to call and giving you a chance to make things right instead of badmouthing you and taking your business elsewhere.

This intent to make the customer feel good does not mean that you have to give in to their demands, but it does mean that you should show them respect and let them know that you appreciate their call. And you can really do this if you think customer complaints are a good thing.

7-step process and tactics for handling the call

Once we are clear about our belief and intention, we can clarify our process.

1. Acknowledge that there is a problem

You don’t get a different ringtone when a caller is going to complain or act obnoxious. Tough calls can catch you with your defenses down. Recognize if someone is agitated. Pick up vocal cues that alert you to potential difficulties.

If the customer’s tone is unpleasant, don’t take it personally. This is easier said than done, isn’t it?

It’s easy to take it personally, get emotionally invested, and mishandle the situation.

Keep calm. Believe in yourself. Ask yourself, would they be angry, sarcastic, or mean to someone else? I’m sure the answer is yes. So it can’t be personal, right?

  1. Acknowledge your problem or frustration.

Show your appreciation and use innocent excuses, for example.

“Thank you for taking the time to call”

“I’m sorry to hear that”

“I’m sorry you had such a hard time getting in touch with us.”

Your goal is to let the customer know that you’re sorry there’s a problem, but you’re glad to hear about it.

  1. actively listen

Don’t start thinking about how to respond. Instead, focus on the caller. Take notes and don’t interrupt – let them finish even if what they say doesn’t make sense to you at first.

  1. Clarify and confirm your understanding of your problem

Be patient with them, even if they are not patient with you. Often people do not explain themselves coherently and clearly when they are emotional. If necessary, ask more questions and restate your understanding of the problem. Remember that your intention is to make them feel good about contacting you.

  1. Find out what your client wants

Some customers just need to vent (perhaps rightly so), but don’t really expect anything to be done. In this case, you have helped simply by listening respectfully.

If a solution is required, ask what they would like you to do. Sometimes clients are unclear about their expectations and answering your questions helps them clarify or analyze what they really want to happen.

This is not the open invitation to take advantage that it may seem: often the client asks for much less than you are able or prepared to give. Most importantly, it provides you with the key to restoring customer satisfaction with your service.

  1. Share information and suggest alternatives

Now is not the time to dictate terms to the client, they have just calmed down. However, this is a mistake that some people make. The danger words here are “You will have to…” gold “You can not…”

There may be times when your organization’s policy or procedures prevent you from doing exactly what the caller would like. It is important in those moments to share that information with them. Ask for permission by saying: “Do you want me to explain?” If they say ‘yes’, they have agreed to listen. If they said ‘no’, they weren’t going to listen anyway.

Offer alternative solutions that are acceptable to both your customer and your organization. For example, “While I don’t have the authority to… what I can do is…”

Don’t say too much to your interlocutor. They just need to know what is relevant to their own situation. Do not try to defend your position or give the caller the complete history of a particular policy. And don’t ‘dismiss’ your organization’s policies, or get into a ‘them versus us’ discussion.

  1. Close the call with confidence

Take responsibility for follow-up and…follow-up.

Thank them again for bringing the problem to your attention and offer your personal service in the future. Make sure they have your name and direct contact details, that will give them confidence!

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