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Manage Dissatisfied Customers in the Contact Center

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Give your agents effective tactics to manage dissatisfied customers.
  • Explain the concept of the communication chain.
  • Provide sample scripts for your agents to communicate with dissatisfied customers.

Managing Dissatisfied Customers

When you manage a call center, you’re skilled at helping resolve customer concerns. In this unit, you learn how to pass this talent along to your agents. You’ll get tips that you can share with your team to ensure they can resolve problems and retain customers.

The Communication Chain

Psychologists talk about a concept called “the communication chain,” which says that when a person expresses something verbally, they expect a response to that message. That first message is a “link” in the communication chain. If there’s no response to the link, the chain is left unlinked or broken. In order to build a communication chain, your agents need to acknowledge a customer’s concern.

Science tells us we have two different parts of the brain that serve two different functions. The right side is where we feel emotions, like fear, joy, dread, shock, love. The left side of the brain is the logical side. This is where we perform tasks that have to do with logic, like science and math.

When someone contacts customer service, that person expects a response after venting frustration or concern. If they don’t get it, the conversation may move to the right side of the brain and become more emotional. When a customer expresses concern, anger, or frustration and is not acknowledged, they might get even more upset.

So back to the communication chain: If a customer expresses concern and you don’t acknowledge it, you break the chain, which can send the conversation to the right side of the brain where they may feel frustrated, angry, or confused. You can have a more productive conversation when your customer is operating in the left brain. By acknowledging a customer’s concern, you’re encouraging that customer to use the left, or more logical side, of their brain and simultaneously keeping the conversation moving forward by closing that link in the communication chain.

The idea is to link the communication chain with genuine acknowledgement of concern. Just put yourself in the customer’s place. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes gives you a sense of empathy, and all you have to do is relay that empathy back to your customer. That’s all acknowledgement is: empathy.

Here are some examples of how to acknowledge concern through various channels.


  • “I can see your point.”
  • “I realize this has been frustrating for you.”
  • “I understand and will do my best to take care of this for you.”
  • “We want to get to the bottom of this.”

Social Media

“Hey, Myra…yikes, sorry! Do you mind sending a DM with the best way to reach you? We’ll get this sorted out for you."


“I understand your frustration. Let’s get this sorted out.”

Text Message

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Let me look into this for you.”

How Your Agents Can Preempt Escalation

When helping a customer who is already unhappy, the situation can easily get out of hand if an agent makes a misstep in the interaction. Here are three steps for agents to remember how to stay on message and keep the customer calm: Understand. Explain. Address.

Understand. Repeat what the customer says so they know you understand and acknowledge their concern.

Explain. Calmly explain the current status of the situation to the customer.

Address. Tell the customer what you can do to address the issue.

How to Handle a Customer Who Is Already Upset

Here’s what your agents need to do when they encounter someone on the phone who is already dissatisfied.

Start by acknowledging the customer’s concern genuinely. Then cover these three things.

  • Here’s what we know.
  • Here’s what we’ve done.
  • Here’s what’s next.

Here’s an example of an agent using these steps in a real-world situation.

  • “Here’s what we know: Your luggage did not appear on the carousel after your flight landed.”
  • “Here’s what we’ve done: We’ve asked security personnel to review video footage from that date and time to see if they spot anyone taking your luggage.”
  • “Here’s what’s next: We will let you know if our security cameras picked up anything. You will need to file a police report and notify your insurance company. Your insurance company may be able to compensate you for the loss.”

Benefits of This Approach

Acknowledging that the customer has a valid concern is the best way to de-escalate and resolve issues. When your agents deploy the approaches above, your contact center can have a much higher degree of success.

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