10 steps to creating win/win outcomes when dealing with difficult callers on the phone

Date: Friday, 08 April 2016
Posted by: Marie Posa

secretaryAll businesses have to take a call from an irate or disappointed customer at some point. How you deal with that call can have an impact on your business, especially with the advent of social media. Now a frustrated customer has access to the world wide web to vent their disappointment in your company and potentially reach more of your customers and future prospects.

I will outline the process we teach in our Excellent Frontline Customer Service courses.

When you have to handle a difficult caller, don’t take it personally. Most people calling you with a complaint simply want the situation resolved. There could be a number of reasons why your product or service didn’t meet their expectations.

Using these steps will help you resolve the issue and create win/win outcomes:

1. Put on your ‘Solution Provider Hat’

Enter the caller’s world. Start writing straight away and record all relevant information, including the caller's state-of-mind. 
 
2. Let the caller tell their story

Focus on what is being said and let them know that you’re listening by providing feedback - “I see...go on...really...and then”.  
 
3. Ask the right questions

Focus the caller on the facts. Ask open questions, start with When…What...Who.... Ask enough questions to get all the facts. Paraphrase to refocus the caller, especially if they are going round and round in circles.
 
4. Remain non-judgemental

Give the caller your full attention. Avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions too quickly. Be solution oriented. 
 
5. Be empathetic

Establish rapport.  Use phrases which create a supportive climate – “Sorry for the inconvenience…”  “Yes, I can appreciate your.......”  “I understand that it may appear that way .....”  “Yes, I agree that......”
 
6. Create the solution

Offer a solution or ask the caller what they feel would be an acceptable solution. Suggest alternatives and look to create win/win outcomes. The ultimate aim is to retain the customer - solve the issue!
 
7. Confirm agreement 

Paraphrase and check back what the person has told you - “Now let me see if I have understood you correctly…………”    Agree on a course of action, and if possible send a brief email outlining the details. Be specific about who will do what, and by when.  
8. Take action promptly

Speed of response is important. Take action and do what you said you would do. 

9. Keep the customer in the loop

If there is going to be a delay, ensure that the caller is notified immediately.
 
10. Follow up 

Enhance customer relations and build goodwill by making a follow-up call to check that your customer is satisfied.
 
We go in to much more detail in our Excellent Frontline Customer Service course.