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How to Gracefully Handle a Challenging Customer Call

December 05, 2013

Catalog and online retailers are experiencing some of the busiest times in their respective call centers right now thanks to the holiday hullabaloo leading right up to the biggest gift-giving day of the year. Emotions are at an all time high, both for customers and the agents handling the calls. There is no perfect track record, and every call center will experience the challenging customer call, but there are a few check points to help mitigate an otherwise disastrous scenario.

First and foremost, the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” couldn’t be truer for the call center agent. Be courteous, find out the needs through questioning, be sincere and polite. While a customer may start off with high energy, maintaining composure can help make the call a success and ensure a happy customer.  Find out the solution, first. Resist the temptation to try to solve the situation right away, or to jump to conclusions about what happened. Instead, let your client tell you his story.

An angry customer needs to vent. Unfortunately, they may take their anger out on you and blame you for what happened even if it’s not your fault. Nevertheless, apologize, and let them have their say before you respond further.  This will leave you in a better position to calm them down.

Regardless of the situation or problem, never judge or “correct” a customer. Rather, your job is to communicate with honesty and sincerity, solve their problem as fast as possible, and thank them for their patience and understanding. When you do, you will indeed have handled the situation well.

When a customer tries to intimidate you, stay calm and ask, "What can we do to help?" This kind of question can also help you get away faster from a chatty, finicky or confused customer who monopolizes your time.

Before you offer solutions, ask the customer how he would like the problem to be resolved. Offer choices whenever possible.

Call center managers must decide on a case-by-case basis when to step in and take over for the agent. They should always intervene if the customer is not merely difficult, but abusive. It's important that the manager handle the situation in a way that does not make the agent appear incompetent.

As a call center manager, using tools like a workforce management solution can help in these instances. Monet Software’s Workforce Management offering provides call center managers with the ability to monitor their agents, track metrics of service performance, and create schedules to keep strong during high-call times.

Difficult customers can make or break your call center business. So instead of thinking up excuses, why not invest in good customer relations and workforce management, and good service as well?

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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