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Manage Dissatisfied Customers in the Contact Center

Learning Objectives

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

  • Manage dissatisfied customers.
  • Use the concept of the communication chain.
  • Preempt escalation.

Managing Dissatisfied Customers

If you work in a call center, you’re probably someone who is already pretty good at helping resolve customer concerns. But like everything in life, there’s always room for improvement. In this unit, you get tips that you can use to help 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, you 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. You learned about the importance of acknowledging the customer’s emotional tone in the first unit. When a customer expresses concern, anger, or frustration and is not acknowledged, they might get even more upset.

So let’s see how the idea of the communication chain can help you approach the emotional aspect of a conversation.

If a customer expresses concern and you don’t acknowledge it, you break the chain, which can send the conversation into 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 encourage that customer to use the left, or more logical side, of their brain and simultaneously keep the conversation moving forward by closing that link in the communication chain.

Phrases to Link the Communication Chain

The idea is to link the communication chain with genuine acknowledgement of the customer’s 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 really all acknowledgement is: empathy. 

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

By Phone

  • “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.”

In Social Media

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

In a Chat

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

In a Text

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

How You Can Preempt Escalation

When helping a customer who is already unhappy, the situation can easily spiral out of hand if you make a misstep in the interaction. Here are three steps to help you 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 you can do when you 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.”

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

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