Handling Complaints in a Call Centre

By Jeremy Blake on September 21, 2015

One of our increasingly popular training programmes is complaints. How well you deal with complaints is a strong indicator of how much you care about your customers.

Here are some statistics from an American Express Survey and Harris Interactive, that may surprise you and help you to see how important it is to develop top level service recovery skills in your people.

What percentage of the over 50's complain very often about a product or service?

⋅66% - two thirds of people over 50 complain very often if dissatisfied with a product or service.

What percentage of people tell someone if a complaint is not handled well?

⋅80% of customers tell someone if their complaint is not handled well.

Do staff feel qualified to deal with complaints?

⋅Only 25% of staff feel qualified to deal with complaints.

The programme we have developed gives examples of companies and individuals that handle complaints brilliantly, and then we share with them a principled structure that we have developed that considers what the customer is feeling and what the company is wanting to save.

It is a comprehensive programme, if we look at just three elements in this post, they may well be the three areas that you need to focus on the most.

1. Really Listen. Yes really listen.

How do you train people to really listen? Well most complaints teams, customer service groups and service recovery colleagues are using the phone. Which means that they are using only 13% of their communicative skills to build a relationship over the phone. I say that, as 87% of communication is non-verbal.

I don't know if you are listening unless I know you are interested in me, focused on me and I will know if you aren't.

I am able to tell if you are on auto pilot from the moment you answer the phone. Just in the same way I delete answerphone messages when I get home that are a montone rushed ramble, if I hear that I feel you don't care. This means you need to stop what you are doing, (eating, drinking, looking out the window, surfing, typing), and be 100% present for me.

2. Really Listen. I will know if you are really listening.

Especially if you don't interrupt me. If I start to tell you why I didn't like the attitude of one of your people that morning and you cut me off with, "Can I just take your name and which store you were at and your X, etc etc?"

I now know that you want to complete a CRM system and not listen to me. The first rule of complaints is letting people vent their spleen, which may hurt them more than it hurts you, and will make them feel a whole lot better to have purged themselves.

Have you tried interrupting a child telling you who has wronged them? It makes them more upset and incensed that you aren't listening to them, and it takes you longer to hear their story and calm them down.

I won't go into Transactional Analysis here, but adults are often being grown up children, not that you should become their parent to improve matters!

3. Really Listen. Silence on a phone for any period of time other than a few seconds doesn't translate well. Remember, I can't see if you are listening.

I need to hear you nod, hear your eyebrows rise in mild alarm and lower and narrow with concern, and I need to hear that you are following me and understanding me.This is where the expression, "he makes all the right noises" comes in! "Yes", "Right", "I see,", "Ah Ha" whatever is natural to you that is your form of active listening, I need to hear it.

This of course is just the first part of the structure, and is only the first stage and contains many other points on listening. Our service recovery structure has 6 stages in all.

The rest of the structure takes you from how you make an apology right up to negotiating a resolution with lots of intriguing parts in between, including understanding the crucial difference between empathy and sympathy.

Sympathy escalates complaints and costs you money, empathy will save you money and give you lots of rewards both internally and externally.

Let me know your number one complaint and the typical resolution or outcome and I'll send you the overview to the whole complaints programme. A complaint is a gift, don't be afraid to open it.