Time-Tested Tips for Handling Tough Contacts

How equipped are your agents for those situations when something is going wrong? When customers are clearly upset? Here are some time-tested tips:

  • If your organization messed up, acknowledge it in a sincere way—and in plain language. (How often as a customer do you see or hear the scripted words, “We regret any inconvenience this may have caused”?) As writing coach and trainer Leslie O’Flahavan soundly advises, if you wouldn’t say something to a customer face-to-face, don’t use it. (I prefer something like, “Thanks for letting us know we let you down, and for giving us a chance to make it right.”)
  • Some things shouldn’t play out in a public forum, even if that’s where they begin (e.g., through a social media post). Get the customer’s okay to move the discussion elsewhere.
  • Take ownership and resolve the issue—if at all possible, fix it! What would it take to earn back the loyalty of this customer? If the customer is asking for the impossible, at least be prepared to give options.
  • How you frame things matters. When speaking with a customer whose flight was hampered by bad weather, there’s a big difference between “I can’t get you on a flight until tomorrow” and “I can get you out first thing in the morning—would you like for me to secure one of those seats?”
  • Document what happened and the circumstances that drove it. Problems can (will!) continue to occur until a root cause is identified and resolved.

How your agents respond to tough situations, as much as anything else, shows the true character of your organization.

Excerpt from the new fourth edition of Contact Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland.