June 9, 2016
Every contact/call center agent has at least one or two stories about an irate customer. It is both the worst nightmare and an inevitability of every contact/call center. While your organization may sincerely try their best to deliver an impeccable customer experience, there still will come a day where a customer call turns sour.
Sometimes these confrontations are a result of the customer misunderstanding a component of the product or service they have received. In those situations, a calm explanation to the customer with a small gesture of goodwill (a partial or full refund, store credit, or a replacement part) will usually do the trick to deescalate the situation. However, there are times when the argument is a result of your agent’s mistake. Perhaps the agent lost patience during a frustrating call, or the agent made a promise that the company could not keep. When a customer conflict is the result of the contact/call center team, the manager must have the skills and resources to swoop in and salvage the call.
Turning a Contact/Call Center Nightmare into a Victory
Goals and What is at Stake
When dealing with an angry customer, it is important to identify and remain focused on the goal of the interaction. First and foremost, you want to retain them as a customer and hopefully guarantee their repeat business, but sometimes this can be too far out of reach, especially when the issue was caused by your team’s mistake.
The goal, then, is to prevent a negative review online. Yes, losing a customer is bad for business, but a negative review could dissuade future customers from choosing your brand. If you can’t turn the negative into a positive, you must do all you can to make sure the interaction at least ends amicably.
Tips for a Successful Customer Resolution:
- Remain Calm: Though obvious, it needs to be stated. The absolute worst thing a contact/call center agent can do is match the customer’s level of anger. It will only serve to exacerbate the situation and guarantee an unfortunate conclusion. Remain calm and maintain your patience when dealing with an upset customer.
- Listen: The customer is clearly upset, and that anger is coming from a disconnect between their expectation of service and the actual result. Let them explain the problem to you without interruption. It can be helpful to put your end of the call on mute so as to prevent the urge to interject. This will also give you some time to collect yourself and prepare a response.
- Use the Customer’s Name: There is power in using someone’s name. It establishes a connection, and conveys to the customer that you’re speaking to them as a human being and not as an account number. Before using a first name, be sure to ask, “May I call you Tiffany, Mrs. Johnson?” The customer may want to maintain a level of formality, and that should be respected.
- Focus on a Solution: Apologies are cheap. You should absolutely apologize in the conversation, but if that is all you’re doing, it is going to be ineffective. After listening to the customer’s complaint in full, steer the direction towards what you are going to do to fix it. You need to change the focus of the conversation from their anger (a negative) towards your solution (a positive).
- Send a Follow-up Email: After the call is complete, send a follow-up email thanking the customer for their patronage and for bringing this problem to your attention. Offer additional assistance and an open door if they wish to contact you again. It gives you the opportunity to get the final word in after the call, and hopefully leave the customer with a good impression.
After the Call, the Real Work Begins
Once the situation has been resolved, it is time to turn your attention to the source of the problem. How did your agent fail to address the customer’s needs? Was the agent rude? Impatient? Was the customer on hold too long? Transferred too many times?
Pull the call recording, diagnose the root cause of the issue, and address it. The agent may require additional training or direction, or perhaps a disciplinary action is the best approach. This will vary on a case by case basis.
At this point, the customer is satisfied and the agent has been corrected. The next step is to prevent this issue from happening again across the contact/call center. Use the call recording and your analysis of the situation as a training tool for the rest of your agents. Point out where the first agent went wrong, and explain how you were able to succeed.
Look into these call reporting key performance indicators (KPIs) to see if you can spot a trend:
- Abandoned Call Rates
- Average Time on Hold
- Average Wait Time
- Average Call Length
Using these tips and performing the proper follow-up, you can reduce the likelihood of the same event repeating itself again.
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