How Contact Centers Can Successfully Deal with Problem Callers
Conflict resolution is at the heart of a contact center – whether it’s a technical issue that needs to be talked through remotely, a complaint, or a new feature that must be explained – finding an agreeable resolution to a caller’s issue is key.
An unavoidable part of contact center culture is problem callers. This is especially true in an increasingly digital world, where picking up the phone to lodge a complaint is often viewed as a last resort after email and social media. This can mean callers have already exhausted all other complaint channels and remain frustrated, using the telephone as a last resort.
An important quality to teach your call center workers is learning to accept other peoples’ anger. Callers may have been struggling with an issue for a long time, building up aggressive energy that will be unleashed over the phone. Agents must learn to distance themselves from this pent-up aggression, which is directed at the situation or service, rather than them as a person.
Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail – this adage rings true when it comes to contact center agents. When staff are adequately trained and well versed in the appropriate procedures for every possible eventuality, they will be able to deal confidently and assertively with problem calls. To build a comprehensive list of solutions to customer complaints, it’s advisable to keep a thorough log of the subjects and specific issues customers encounter. This will help you develop a database of solutions over time, and drive attention towards persistent problems within the company at large.
Another key skill is the ability to let customers vent. Getting everything off their chest can be cathartic for callers, putting them in a more agreeable mood. Customer Experience Expert Shep Hyken supported this idea in an interview on the subject: “If a customer is complaining and angry, let them vent. Ask them questions to show that you care. Don’t add to their aggravation. You might ask them to repeat the problem just to make sure you understand. Be a good listener.”
It’s unhealthy for staff to be afraid or reluctant to escalate an unusually aggressive call to a more senior member of staff. Rather than reflecting badly on your agent, encourage a culture where this is a viable way of dealing with a volatile caller. Sometimes callers will only consider their issue taken seriously if it has been elevated to a more senior member of staff, so transferring to a supervisor can be a handy method of diffusing a difficult situation.
Knowing when a conversation has veered into inappropriate territory is also a vital skill for contact center agents. If a caller is being personally abusive or using offensive language, agents should be confident enough to confront this behaviour and offer an ultimatum – either stop being abusive, or the call will end. This approach should encourage the caller to remember it’s a real person they are speaking to.
If it doesn’t, then remember that as much as the customer is always right, the morale and mental health of your staff is important too. Staff don’t have to stand for abuse, so offer your support if any scenarios do arise.
Ultimately, preparation is key to successfully dealing with challenging calls. If your agents have the answers, and are given the autonomy to offer real solutions and advice, then the number of persistent problem callers is likely to decrease.
Edited by Alicia Young