calltalk-caramels-2.pngAcross all industries the complaint ratio is approximately 7.5% of all calls, with complaints in the auto-manufacturing industry skyrocketing to a high of nearly 20%. Regardless of their nature and origin, the correct and proper handling of complaint calls is one of a call center’s most sensitive tasks.  Poor handling will result in lost customers; great handling can actually result in higher loyalty from customers, who are delighted with your response.  As managers, we need to keep in mind that complaints can be very emotionally taxing on front-line agents and can hurt morale as well. Here are some tips and guidelines for complaint handling:

  1. Make sure there are people within the organization trained in the handling of complaints and anger diffusion practices. “Customer recovery” processes should be carefully laid out and skillfully executed.  Monitor the customer recovery function and tweak it as needed.
  2. People assigned to handle complaints must have a high level of patience and positive attitude.
  3. Acknowledge their complaint through a restatement and apologize for any inconvenience it has caused. This does not mean that your organization is wrong, but does show caring, empathy and understanding.
  4. By the end of the interaction, try to fix the problem and be sure the caller understands how you have done so.  Consider giving customers voicing legitimate complaints with something of value – especially if the issue is not totally resolved. Such things might be an extra product feature or extended service, a coupon, a free gift item, etc.
  5. Develop a good tracking system for logging complaints. This helps to identify chronic complainers as well as items that need to be addressed and solved by your company.
  6. Avoid “fire drill” escalations to upper management. All levels of management need to be aware of the complaint handling process, the policies and procedures associated with the complaint, and the initial steps taken by the first responders to the complaint.
  7. In your IVR message, inform callers of information that they should have to help resolve their request (model #, serial #, purchase dates, etc.
  8. Look at complaints as “dark pearls”, i.e. valuable opportunities to learn about what you can improve. Pass complaints about products, marketing, etc. to the proper part of your company.
  9. Match your call center complaints with complaints culled from social media – quickly!

When properly handled, complaints turn into compliments, and dissatisfied customers into champions of brand loyalty; however, this accomplishment requires well-planned processes  facilitated by highly-trained individuals.

Tip of the Week: Great complaint resolution is not just a matter of agent personality, it is also a matter of specialized training and superior processes. Do you have complaint resolution training for your team?

This CallTalk Caramel was compiled and edited by Bruce Belfiore and Kamál Webb.  It was drawn from a CallTalk episode with John Chatterley, entitled “ How 3% of Calls Can Take 30% of Your Time – Strategies To Manage Them”. To listen to the archived episode click play below:


calltalk-caramels-2.pngCallTalk is a monthly internet radio program featuring the most innovative managers and thought leaders in the customer contact field, interviewed by BenchmarkPortal CEO, Bruce Belfiore.  “Caramels” distills key moments from these interviews into practical, bite-sized nuggets to inform and assist you as a contact center professional.

Topics: CallTalk Caramels, Contact Center Articles, Complaint Calls