Customer Expectations Report Understand what customers want when it comes to service. GET THE REPORT

How to Deal with Customer Complaints Over the Phone

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” – John Lydgate 

As hard as you may try, it’s nearly impossible to please your customers every single time—from perfectly reasonable human error, to external factors out of your control—there will be times that your team will encounter an unhappy customer. 

And while you can’t eliminate a poor experience altogether, what you can do is to prepare your team to handle these situations the best way they can. Properly training your agents, providing them with scenarios to play-act, recommended language for answers, and following some trusted best practices are all ways to turn a customer complaint into a positive experience that will translate well for your brand.

[Read More: Customer Service Scenarios Test]

In this post, we’ll focus on how you can train your team to deal with customer complaints over the phone, but there are lessons here that can apply to whatever the channel your customer reaches out on 

Steps to Dealing with Customer Complaints Over the Phone

  1. Listen Actively, Calmly, and Patiently: The first step to handling a customer complaint is to really listen. Your customer could be calling for any number of reasons, and in order for you to identify their problem and assist them, you have to be calm, patient, and active in the way you listen to their opening complaint. It’s important to remember that the customer’s complaint is nothing personal against you or your organizationAnd being empathetic and understanding will lead to the best result for you, your customer, and your business.  
  2. Be Responsive: The most effective way to show you’ve listened to and understood your customer’s complaint is to be responsive. Open with a sincere apology followed by some language and phrases that show you’ve heard them clearly. Something like “I completely understand what you’re saying. Let me see what I can do,” or, “I completely understand. That does sound frustrating.” Being responsive is a great way to calm your customers down and let them know that you’re both on the same side.  
  3. Identify the Root of the Problem: Once you’ve listened to and connected with your customer from a point of empathy, you can begin to identify the root of their problem. How you identify the root of the problem will ultimately come down to the nature of the call and the type of business you’re running, but the fundamentals stay the same. You want to politely ask questions to identify what kind of problem your customer is dealing with and refer to your training to follow the necessary steps for that particular problem. 
  4. Offer Several Solutions: By providing several solutions to your customers, you’re ensuring the highest chance that your customers find a solution that they’re satisfied with. In some cases, the solution will be straight forward and obvious. In others, like with a damaged product or dissatisfied customer, you can provide multiple solutions. With a dissatisfied customer, you could offer a refund, product exchange, or company credits to be used as they please. 
  5. Be Honest and Upfront: Whatever step you’re on, you want to be honest and upfront throughout the call. If there was a delivery mistake on the company’s end, don’t be afraid to come out and to admit that and address the issue. If you’re honest, apologetic, and proactive about solving the complaint, your customers will most likely identify that sincerity and appreciate the way in which you handle the issue. 

Customer Complaint Examples

So how do these steps translate into an actual customer complaint phone call? Below are some examples of common customer complaint calls and how to approach them following the guide above. 

  • Scenario 1 – A customer calls in because they feel they have waited too long for a service or product: The first thing to do is to apologize and express your understanding of their frustration. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can be upfront and let them know what the status is on their product or service. As opposed to being overly apologetic or, even worse, defensive, you can keep things on a positive note and find the silver lining of the situation. Instead of apologizing and blaming the situation on the supplier, for example, you can instead reassure them that you’re working closely with your team to make sure their item comes in as soon as possible. 
  • Scenario 2 – A product or service did not meet a customer’s expectations: Once you’ve heard the customer’s complaint, you want to first apologize that they’re unhappy with their product or service, regardless of whether or not you think they’re justified in their complaint. If the complaint seems somewhat unwarranted, like if they’re asking for an additional free item, try to work with them to find a middle ground. Perhaps provide a discount or offer other products that they could exchange their current product for. 
  • Scenario 3 – You don’t have an answer or solution to their problem. This is a tricky situation for most agents to navigate. First off, show empathy for their situation and offer an apology if the fault is on our end. But most importantly, show your customer that you’re taking steps to resolve their issue—even if it’s not something you’re able to do on your own. For example, let your customer know that you’re going to bring their situation to the attention of your manager, and give them an estimation on when they might hear back from you. And if you still don’t have a resolution for them within that estimated time, be sure to reach back out and let them know, before they have to follow up themselves—that would simply cause more frustration to an already negative experience. 

Final Thoughts: How to Handle Customer Complaints Over the Phone 

Helping a frustrated customer can be a daunting task, even for your most veteran of agents. But if you follow this guide, you’ll have won half the battle when it comes to resolving customer complaints over the phone.

With Glady your customers can finally say goodbye to the frustrating repeat and recap. With every communication your customer has with you threaded into a single timeline, your agents always have the most up-to-date understanding of who your customer is, and what they need. Build relationships, connect with your customers, and provide the most human customer service experience with Gladly today 

Subscribe to the Radically Personal Blog
Let's get you a personalized quote.
Customer Service is at its best when its a conversation. Start one today.
Sign up for tips, strategies, and information for modern customer service and support teams.
Partner With Gladly
Customer service is at its best when it's a conversation. Start one today.
Sometimes the best things in life are free. Like this assessment.
Customer service is at its best when it's a conversation. Start one today.