6 Killer Tips for Handling Customer Complaints

Posted by Arpana Nair

LISTEN, REPEAT, SOLVE

Without being defensive and without assuming what the problem is, listen closely to what the customer is saying. Some problems that start out sounding run-of-the-mill are actually more complicated problems in disguise. Quietly take notes and listen without prejudice until the customer reaches a natural stopping point. This also helps calm down an angry customer who needs to vent. Once they're finished, repeat back what they've said and confirm you have the facts right. Then begin working on a solution.

SHOW EMPATHY

We've all been on the other end of the phone. We've all experienced the frustration and helplessness of having a problem we can't fix and turning to a faceless company for help. Don't forget how that feels when you're fielding the call yourself. Establish trust quickly and get on their side of the issue so they know you're truly in it together. Speaking of being on the other end of the phone, how do you feel when you call with a complaint and feel like you're being "handled" by a script? There's a good chance you're just going to get more angry. There's a difference between being guided by a script and reading it verbatim. Robotically read phrases like "I'm sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your service" should be avoided. Speak naturally. There's nothing wrong with saying "Wow, that must be a pain! Let's get this fixed."

BE EMPOWERED

Customers want their problems solved in one call. Sometimes that means bending the rules or being creative. Losing a customer over something minor needs to be put into perspective. Understand the lifetime value of a customer before hiding behind red tape and rules. A customer service agent's mission is not to see who can follow the rules most closely, it's to keep or save a customer. Policies that routinely send customers to the brink need to be re-examined.

BE READY TO BRING IN HELP

Make sure there is easy access for help. Again, customers don't want to come back later or get passed off to someone else. Have a swift and clear system for getting to someone who's more technical, more senior or more experienced. Putting a customer on hold once is understandable, but every time after that will give them more time to wonder who your competitors are and how hard it would be to switch.

WHENEVER POSSIBLE, CONFIRM IN WRITING

Whether it's an email, letter, tweet, or comment, most customers want some concrete indication of the resolution so they can refer back to it later. Don't make them ask for it, offer it. "I'll send you a follow up email with what we discussed for your records." This builds trust like you wouldn't believe! This says you'll stand behind what you said and the customer doesn't have to worry about being forgotten.

Want more customer service tips? Read ‘How to Improve Customer Service with GPS Tracking’.