By Donna Cutting
It takes a special person to work in a support center dealing with customer complaints day-in and day-out. There is no more stressful job when it comes to serving customers than to be resolving the challenges they bring to the table. As a support center representative, you are tasked with remaining calm and professional as you assist the person on the other end of the line. It’s not always easy, especially when that person is angry and directing their emotional outburst at you. However, the way you handle the situation could be the difference between a bad review and a raving fan.
So, how do you defuse that angry customer so you can get on with the business of helping them? You TREAT them to red-carpet customer service.
- Tune In and Listen
- Respond with Empathy and Regret
- Explore Solutions & Fix the Issue
- Add a Little Extra
- Thank the Customer
Tune In and Listen: When the person on the other end of the line is taking their frustration out on you, the normal reaction is to defend yourself, fight back, or even flee by immediately escalating to your supervisor. Instead remind yourself not to take it personally, and train yourself to stay silent and really listen to what the customer is saying. You may feel you’ve heard it all before and you know what they’re going to say. However, if you take a deep (silent) breath, tune in carefully and let the customer vent, two things will happen:
- The customer will be able to voice their frustration, which will help them get it out of their system.
- You may hear information that will help you better help them.
At a certain point, they will pause and then you can move on to the next step.
Respond with Empathy and Regret: Once you’ve allowed your customer to vent, it’s time to defuse their anger. You do this by responding with empathy and regret. For instance, say: “I understand how you feel. I would feel the exact same way” or “I can hear the frustration in your voice, and I absolutely understand how you feel.” Then, you express regret. For instance, “I’m so sorry you’re having this experience.”
Understand, you aren’t taking responsibility for something you didn’t do. You’re letting them know that you appreciate their emotions and you regret the situation.
If this was an error on your part or someone in your company’s part, then you must take ownership and apologize for the mistake. Otherwise, expressing sorrow for the situation is the way to go.
Nine times out of ten, these two steps will calm the customer so you can assist them.
Explore Solutions and Fix the Problem: Now you can take care of their complaint. Use confidence-building phrases such as: “I am happy to help you with this issue” or “let me see what I can do to help.” If you can fix the problem right away, take care of it.
If you need more information or you’re unsure if you can help, say:
“I’m going to do everything within my power to resolve this situation to your satisfaction. May I ask a few clarifying questions so I have more information?”
This lets the customer know that you are willing to help within the scope of your job, and you partner with them to resolve the problem together.
If you are 100% sure that what they’re asking for is mission impossible, explain why and give them other options.
“The reason for that policy is (this). However, what we can do is (this) or (this). Which one of those options suits you best?”
If you still can’t come to a resolution, this is the point you escalate the call to a supervisor or manager.
Add a Little Extra: Once you’ve come to a resolution, take one extra step to impress the customer. It might be as simple as asking, “While I have on you the line, is there anything else I can do for you?”
Better yet, follow up with them the next day to ensure they are happy with the resolution.
Or, if you have the ability to do so, send them a handwritten note or small gift.
However, do not take this step until the complaint has been addressed and a solution has been found. I don’t care about the free desert you give me, if my meal came out cold and wasn’t what I ordered. First, correct my meal, and then add the free desert.
Thank the Customer: What? Thank the customer whose just been yelling at me?
Yes. Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention and giving you the opportunity to help. After all, customers who don’t speak up are, perhaps, more dangerous. They are the ones who sit quietly dissatisfied until they move on to another company. By coming to you, this customer gave you the opportunity to turn it around.
Finally, if you find you are faced with the same issues and complaints repeatedly, report it. Talk with your managers and your team to come up with a permanent solution to the problem. As a member of the support team, you are in a unique position to know exactly what your customers want and what they don’t want.
It’s true that you can’t please everyone and some people will stay mad regardless of what you do. However, often the best service stories start with a complaint and end with raving fan! TREAT upset customers to red carpet customer service and, more often than not, you’ll find those dreaded calls have a happy ending.
About the author: Donna Cutting is the author of two books on red carpet customer service, including the latest 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implement Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers, and Leave a Lasting Impression. She’s an in-demand keynote speaker on the topic, and the Founder & CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems, Inc. http://www.redcarpetlearning.com
If you would like to learn more about Donna Cutting, you can also catch her episode on BOOKED for Success.