› Tel

This is a six step strategy that can be used to handle complaints – especially those received by phone or in person.

Step 1: Listen

  • Listen to the customer – don’t get defensive, argue or deny anything.
  • If the customer is angry, give them time to rant – you will give them the opportunity to “let off steam” and this will make them more ready to work with you to find a solution – and you will have heard all of the facts.
  • Keep a record of all key points discussed.
  • Clarify key points by asking questions at the end of each of the customer’s statements.
  • Aim to understand why the customer is upset and control your own behaviour by not fighting back.
  • If a customer’s complaint keeps going, validate their feelings and focus on the actions that you can take: “I’m sorry that happened. I’m sure that really did cause you some problems. Let’s now have a look at…”.

Step 2: Empathise

  • Thank the customer for giving you an opportunity to put things right.
  • Express empathy with the customer’s situation – say something like “that must have been frustrating for you” or “I can understand why you’re angry”.
  • Reassure the customer that something will be done – even a simple but effective explanation of why something can’t be done to fully meet the customer’s desired outcome may well provide resolution.
  • Apologise for the problem.
  • This focus on empathising with the customer’s problem should calm an angry customer.

Step 3: Gather information

  • Ask questions to understand the problem from the customer’s position.
  • Allow the customer to calm down, they may revise their information. Some people exaggerate when they are upset.
  • Get as much information as possible.

Step 4: Involve the customer

Find out what the customer wants:

  • Sometimes this may be obvious, sometimes not.
  • Ask the customer what they want to happen.
  • Confirm your understanding of what they want.
  • Explain what you can do and take action right away.
  • If you can’t, clearly communicate how you will refer or escalate the complaint for the customer.

Step 5: Action plan

  • Discuss alternatives and explain any benefits or drawbacks.
  • Agree on a proposed course of action. Be specific on what will happen next.
  • Make sure the customer knows who will do what and when.
  • Make sure the customer knows what they have to do.
  • Take action immediately and keep your promises.

Step 6: Follow up

  • Follow up the complaint if you can – get back to the customer with any updates on the action plan.
  • If any actions are delayed, let the customer know.
  • If the customer remains dissatisfied, make sure that the complaint is escalated and the customer informed on what will happen next.

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