Five Ways to Please Disgruntled Customers

Moment after moment, day after day, customer care agents are presented with a string of opportunities to promote customer engagement.

In the contact center, many such moments are a challenge. Emotions sometimes take center stage. Customers may call feeling disappointed about a purchase, stressed about a bill, or worried about missed deliveries. These emotional reactions over perceived broken promises on the part of the business can lead to interactions fraught with negativity.

To deal with these challenging calls, Communicators should be aware of their ability to identify, manage, and control their emotions—an idea rooted in the theory of emotional intelligence. Personal characteristics such as perseverance, self-control, empathy (though not too much empathy!) and a person’s ability to get along with others have been used to explain many instances of business success, and can also be used to promote success in the contact center.

Surprisingly, recent Gallup research shows that the way in which customer care agents handle difficult calls can have a greater impact on customer engagement than the resolution itself: When customers are very satisfied with the way their problem was handled (no matter whether it was resolved or not), slightly more of them became fully engaged with a brand than those customers who never had a problem to start with.

So what does a well-handled call look like? Here are five things customer care agents can do when engaging with a disgruntled customer:

  • Talk less, listen more. Talking is easy; listening is hard. Talking makes people feel as if they’re not alone, and they appreciate the fact that they feel listened to. The more Communicators listen, the more the customer feels like they’re worth listening to—and that’s a step in the right direction.
  • Be compassionate. After listening, convey an eagerness to help. Compassion acknowledges the customer’s feelings—and puts agents and customers on the same side, with a mutual goal to alleviate the problem. Putting the customer’s emotional needs front and center help build genuine feelings of trust.
  • Ask pertinent questions. Gather the facts with pointed questions. Relevant questions demonstrate understanding, and shows that Communicators are actively working toward a resolution. In doing so, Communicators becomes trusted advisers, working hand-in-hand with the customer.
  • Suggest alternatives. If a customer suggests a course of action that’s outside the agent’s scope of authority, or one that’s simply not possible to pursue, suggest an alternative that might be acceptable. Past, similar situations can serve as a playbook for future experiences.
  • Don’t hang up without a resolution. Even if the problem requires a follow-up call or other action to be taken, customers should never exit the conversation without clear knowledge of next steps, or a resolution of some kind.

Intent counts more than technique! If your agents honestly want to help customers solve problems, that attitude affects his or her interactions, and will eventually lead to the satisfactory resolution of issues. Resolutions, in turn, give customers a feeling of success—my phone call worked!

If that happens, your Communicators have done their job superbly.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.