Customer service is not a walk in the park.
Ace it, and you achieve customer delight, repeat business, and improved bottom line. Fail at it, and you will see your hard-earned customers disappearing into thin air.
The question is – does there exist a magic formula to decode what customers want?
No matter the number of feedback surveys you roll out, much of the customer’s psyche will still be difficult to understand.
All you can do is put your best foot forward every time they come up with complaints of any kind – defective products, process failures, poor services, etc. If they are restless, you need to be patient. If they are confused, you need to be supportive and decisive, and if they are rude, you should be calm and polite.
Here are the top 10 skills that can help you respond to customer complaints gracefully and confidently and achieve your ultimate goal – customer satisfaction.
10 Essential Customer Service Skills to Respond to Customer Complaints
There is a reason 36% of customers across the globe find empathy as one of the most critical customer interaction attributes. Empathizing with customers makes them feel understood and valued, which is extremely important in customer service.
When customers come to you with complaints, they are disheartened and frustrated. Showing empathy when they reach out to you sets the right tone for the entire interaction.
Solving their complaints is a secondary thing. What’s even more important when customers approach you is to show that their concerns matter to you and your business.
Empathy helps you pay attention to what customers are going through, have meaningful conversations with them, and provide them the right solution. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to always agree with them. You can contradict their beliefs and take actions that they might dislike, but with as much compassion and understanding as possible.
When customers approach you, they want you to provide them the right solutions instantly. That’s precisely why decisiveness is a critical customer service skill.
You can’t sound confused when a customer comes to you with an issue. You have to be decisive and make the most relevant decisions that favor your customers and your organization. This can mean rolling-out a cashback if the customer genuinely qualifies and saying no to a steeper discount if it brings affects your profit.
By being decisive, you are able to offer a quick response to complaints and prevent trivial situations from ballooning into business disasters.
Clear communication is critical for meaningful, result-focused conversations with customers.
To offer delightful customer support, you have to be swift and accurate with your responses but at the same time, maintain positive and engaging communication throughout the interaction. While your facial expressions can compensate for your conversation tone in a physical interaction, this is not the case when you communicate via phone or email.
Losing focus or using unclear language while interacting with customers can frustrate them. So, while responding to customer complaints online, ensure that your tone and words make up for the lack of visual cues.
You might be empathetic and positive in your interaction, but you also need to be a great communicator to ensure that customers clearly understand the solutions you provide.
In the field of customer service, it is highly likely to be yelled at, insulted, and charged with faults that you never committed. Does this mean you should take it to heart? No.
Understand that such situations are part and parcel of your job. You will be dealing with different personalities every single day. While some might be polite, others may be shouting. There is one thing that can keep you sane, and that’s patience. It is a hard-earned skill that comes with experience.
While fire cannot extinguish the fire, a splash of cool water can douse the flames. That’s how patience works. It helps you stay calm and in the right frame of mind while dealing with difficult customers.
So every time you have to deal with irate customers, take a long deep breath and realize that their anger is temporary. Once you realize this, you are better positioned to give them the right solutions and turn their anger into something positive.
Active listening is a powerful skill that paves the way for customer success. The key to excellent complaint resolution lies in actually listening to your customers and not just pretending to do so.
Careful listening helps you understand the underlying cause of the issues faced by customers. Without effective listening, you won’t be able to decode customers’ issues or provide accurate solutions in a single interaction. The result? Customer disappointment and frustration.
According to Statista, 36% of customers worldwide prefer to get their issues resolved in a single interaction, and that can happen only when you listen and pay careful attention to their concerns.
While listening is important, what’s even more important is that customers believe that you are listening and understanding their concerns. Verbal utterances, such as “Uh-Huh,” “I see,” “That’s bad,” and “Okay,” etc., keep your customers aware of your involvement in the interaction.
After listening to your customer, repeat their problem in your words to confirm if you got it right and then provide a solution.
Working as a customer support agent is just like opening gifts after a party. You never know what is in the next box! And, self-control is just the right skill to take every surprise with ease.
You might have to confront a confused customer one minute and a frustrated, angry customer the next minute. Or, even worse, it can be customers asking for the prices of all your subscription plans. They talk to you for an hour and conclude with zero purchase or poor rating.
It is very common for things to spiral out of control when dealing with customers. Practicing self-control enables you to come out of such situations with minimum harm. It keeps you calm, positive, and professional in every situation, preventing you from using words or taking actions that can have irreparable consequences.
Time is a crucial but limited resource. Make the most of it, and you can sort out your whole life. We all wish we could have a little more of it, right?
Since that is not possible, all you can do is manage it effectively.
Time management is a crucial customer service skill that can help you manage incoming customer requests and address them quickly.
You have to do multiple things in a day – respond to customer calls, emails, and social media messages, attend meetings, prepare presentations, and much more. If you don’t plan your day and manage your time, the quality of one of the other tasks is likely to get affected.
That’s why you need to create a schedule that accommodates your day’s tasks without overburdening yourself. Create a to-do list and plan your day’s work. Prioritize urgent and critical customer issues and ensure that you address them on time.
You can even use help desk software to make the most of your time and streamline your work. A powerful help desk tool allows you to send canned responses for common customer questions so that you can fully focus on serious customer issues.
All your customer communication gets consolidated on a shared platform, where you can prioritize them, set due dates, and track progress. No pile-up of customer issues, and no procrastination.
The Right Knowledge
For effective complaint resolution, you need to have deep knowledge of your organization, its products, and services. When you are updated about the latest policies, new product features, purchase process, etc., you are better positioned to answer customer questions confidently.
What if you aren’t? It would lead to poor customer experiences, and by that extension, negative brand perception.
In fact, for 36% of customers across the globe, the most frustrating aspect is when the support agent they speak with lacks the knowledge to resolve their issues.
Offering the right knowledge at the right time paves the way for excellent customer support and ensures higher levels of customer satisfaction.
If you want positive outcomes while responding to customer complaints, you have to be positive in your communication and attitude.
Despite how angry, frustrated, or rude a customer is, you need to exude positivity in your interaction. This helps you make more meaningful and effective communication with your customers and gain deeper insights into their concerns.
Take charge of the conversation and drive it towards a positive outcome. Be solution-focused throughout your interactions and close the conversation on a positive note, always.
Being a frontline, customer-focused job; customer service demands flexibility.
Working directly with customers means being more receptive to constant changes every single day. Every day you will confront different kinds of customers approaching you via different channels – calls, emails, or social media. This means a variety of customer complaints flowing through multiple channels and presenting you with various situations.
By being flexible, you can cater to your customers on all platforms and be versatile in your dealings. Flexibility to offer resolutions aligned with customer expectations enables you to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Take a look at the various channels your customers use to reach out to you:
Be flexible in different situations, and ensure that customers stay satisfied and delighted with the experience.
Unlock Customer Success With the Right Skills
Being a customer service professional is not easy, given the fact that it requires you to be on your toes almost always and address even the 100th customer complaint of the day with the same energy.
Dealing with disgruntled, impatient customers, and those who vent out their frustration on social media is part and parcel of this job.
You can be successful in this role if you develop the skills required to reply to customer complaints and turn negative interactions into positive, result-focused conversations.
Start by working on the key skills mentioned above. Be emphatic, flexible, and positive in all your interactions, and learn how to manage your time effectively. Practice self-control and be patient in all situations.
Start working on the skills mentioned here and witness a rise in your customer satisfaction levels.
About the Author: Jared Cornell is a customer-support specialist, a marketing evangelist and a book lover, associated with ProProfs Help Desk. Jared is passionate about customer support and loves to solve customers’ queries. He is always keen to develop new strategies to help customers seeking Help Desk assistance for a delightful experience. You can connect and engage with Jared on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.