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Call Center Service Best Practices for Handling Customer Complaints

Posted by Sunny Morgan
Call Center Service Best Practices for Handling Customer Complaints

Your customers serve as the most germane form of quality control for your business. Their satisfaction is pivotal for the growth and success of your enterprise. Therefore, paying heed to their grievances is essential, as these provide opportunities to enhance the customer experience and prevent potential loss.

Irrespective of the industry, customer complaints are inevitable. Even if your business performs flawlessly, a customer may eventually encounter an issue that requires the assistance of your customer service team. It is during such situations that the service representatives can make or break the customer's journey.

To improve customer retention, it is crucial to equip your representatives to handle challenging or dissatisfied customers. This article delves into the various types of customer complaints and outlines steps your team can take to resolve each one. We are going to identify the prominent problems and learn the techniques to tackle these problems.

Long Wait on Hold

While working with a call center outsourcing team, one of the crucial metrics to monitor is the Average Time on Hold (ATH). Customers expect prompt resolutions and cannot afford to spend extended periods waiting on hold.

Research suggests that if customers are left waiting for more than two minutes, they are likely to disconnect the call, and 34% of such customers may not attempt to contact your business again.

This indicates that delays in answering calls could potentially lead to losing a significant proportion of your customer base.

What to do

Lengthy wait times on calls could indicate two underlying issues. Firstly, it could indicate that the customer demand is surpassing the capacity of your customer service team. If this is the case, you should consider recruiting additional representatives to cater to the needs of your call center. Meanwhile, your representatives should apologize for the extended wait times and strive to provide a resolution on the first call itself.

Secondly, it could indicate that your call center lacks automation. By integrating call center software, your service team can leverage features that simplify operations and automate tasks. Adopting this technology can enhance the efficiency of your team by eliminating repetitive tasks from their daily workload. This, in turn, should reduce the frequency of hold time complaints and offer a more gratifying customer service experience.

Service or Product Unavailability

A product going out of stock is generally a positive indication of its popularity. However, if the product remains unavailable for an extended period, customers may become restless and impatient for its return. They may request special orders or frequently inquire about product availability. This usually implies that there is a pressing need for your product that must be met promptly. Negligence to this factor may give your competitors an advantage over you.

What to do

As a representative in customer service, you may not have the authority to determine when a new shipment will be ordered. In such cases, it is advisable to report the issue to your managers, who can then inform the sales and product management teams.

As a service representative, you should encourage customers to remain patient and assure them that you will reach out to them as soon as the shipment becomes available. Customers should know that the unavailability of products or services is absolutely normal sometimes.

By adopting this proactive approach, you can demonstrate to customers that you understand their urgent requirements and are taking steps to address their concerns.

Probing the Problem Repeatedly

It is a displeasing and time-consuming experience for customers when they have to repeat their issues to representatives. This usually occurs when customers are either redirected to different representatives or when the agent they are dealing with is not attentive enough. Describing their concerns multiple times is a source of frustration for customers. It can quickly ramp up their temperament and make them irate.

What to do

When customers express their dissatisfaction with having to repeat their concerns, the best approach is to avoid transferring their call. If you need to connect them with a specialist, it is recommended to reach out to the concerned agent internally and try to relay the advice to the customer. Though this may be a more tedious process, it will address the customer's immediate needs. At least it will save the customer’s frustration.

To address this issue in the long run, it is advisable to invest in help desk software. A help desk can manage and allocate incoming service requests to the most appropriate agents. This ensures that your customers are connected directly with representatives who possess the expertise to resolve their problems effectively. Also, it is advised to add a functionality that records the history and current status of the problem.

The agent handling the case can also add some pointers explaining the delicacy of the situation so the next agent handles the case diligently and conscientiously. This function enables the next agent to quickly get a grasp of the situation so the agent is not required to ask the same array of questions for understanding the case from the beginning. On the whole, do anything to provide first-call resolution or avoid probing too many times.

Uninterested Service Representative

There are customers who may not gel well with your customer service representatives due to various factors such as the agent’s tone, personality, or the time of day. If a representative is unable to satisfy their requirements, some customers may perceive it as a lack of concern for their situation. It is quite complex to understand who is at fault.

While this may be valid in some instances, it could also be a result of customers having unreasonable expectations that exceed your team's capabilities. Irrespective of the reason, if your representatives fail to exhibit commitment, it could harm your business's image. It is inevitably going to cost your business negatively so be wary of this situation.

What to do

When faced with such customer grievances, representatives should explore ways to exceed the customer's expectations and deliver exceptional service. Although businesses have standard operating procedures, sometimes it's necessary to go beyond these protocols to retain customers. At the very least, representatives must be mindful of their tone and body language, displaying an enthusiastic and attentive attitude.

If a customer reports any issues with a representative, the management should conduct a thorough investigation while providing the agent with the benefit of the doubt. Rather than criticizing the representative's approach, managers should focus on teaching them how to avoid such situations in the future. However, if such problems persist, it might be necessary to take more stringent actions.

Interesting Blog: A Simple Guide for Performance Management in Call Center Services

Poor Product or Service Quality

Customers are likely to lodge a complaint when your product malfunctions. However, sometimes the product may not be defective, but the customer may lack an understanding of how to use it. Additionally, some customers may not be suitable for your product or service but may fault your company for not meeting their expectations.

Regardless of the reason, it's crucial for your team to be equipped with strategies to prevent customers from switching to your competitors. In many cases, it is quite unclear which aspect of the product or service was not functional or up to the mark. Sometimes, it is neither customer’s fault nor the product's or service’s fault.

What to do

In the event that the product is functioning correctly, take the opportunity to educate the customer. Identify their objectives and requirements, and then demonstrate how they can use the product to achieve their desired outcomes. Conversely, if the product is faulty, offer immediate replacement options and ascertain how the defect occurred. If it was due to user error, kindly explain to the customer how they can avoid a similar situation in the future.

For a sustainable resolution, consider utilizing customer feedback tools to gather input from your customers about your product. NPS® surveys can be used to gauge customer satisfaction and acquire valuable insights about how you can enhance your product's functionality. These feedback mechanisms provide both quantitative and qualitative information that can be utilized to improve product development.

Lack of First-Call Resolution

Customers have an expectation that their inquiries will be resolved during their initial contact with your service team. Research indicates that preventing 67% of customer attrition is possible if their service requests are addressed satisfactorily during the first interaction.

While it is not advisable to keep customers on hold for extended periods, it is important to strive for first-call resolutions. And, that is not something that is possible for every customer. It requires a lot of experience and problem-solving skills.

What to do

When commencing customer interactions, your representatives should prioritize assessing the urgency of the case. If the customer's needs require immediate attention, strive for first-call resolutions without wasting time repeating steps or searching for irrelevant information. If your representatives do not have the answer, they should politely request permission to follow up and explain how this process will expedite resolution.

One effective method to enhance first-call resolution rates is to include self-service support options on your company's website. Features such as community forums and a knowledge base can assist customers in resolving their inquiries without needing to call customer service. This creates a more convenient and satisfactory customer experience. However, it is also subject to how quickly a customer is able to find answers from the given user interface.

Lack of Follow-Up

When following up on a case, customers' expectations regarding communication frequency may vary. While some customers may anticipate regular updates, others may display more patience. Without clear and consistent communication from your representatives regarding response times, customers may assume that their case has been neglected.

Follow-ups are necessary drills that need to be practiced regularly without fail. Unfortunately, in many call center outsourcing services, the follow-up part is generally overlooked or done improperly. If managers deem follow-ups as sacrosanct and implore everyone to do them properly, then it can bring a lot of benefits. Let us see what senior members can do to eradicate the paucity.

What to do

When following up on a case, your service representative should be explicit about communication expectations. Inquire whether the proposed frequency is satisfactory for the customer, and if not, establish a mutually acceptable system for both parties.

While your representatives must prioritize customer needs, customers must also grant them the space to work independently on the issue. If your representatives are constantly providing updates, customers may experience longer wait times for resolution.

If your team is encountering difficulty tracking follow-up activity, it may be worthwhile to implement a ticketing system. Ticketing systems capture incoming requests and simplify the management of active service cases. Moreover, you can integrate the system with your CRM to link tickets directly to customer profiles.

Requests for New Products and Services

This is not exactly a complaint; however, it is a typical occurrence encountered by many call center services daily. If your product or service fails to meet all of your customer’s requirements, they may request the opportunity to suggest new products or features.

Although some of these suggestions may be beneficial, most cater to specific use cases that may not be applicable to the majority of your customer base. However, these requests must not be neglected without investigating their feasibility, prospects, and benefits.

What to do

In such situations, it is recommended to provide a self-service platform where your representatives can direct these requests. Although product suggestions from customers are valuable, it is not practical to have representatives spend their entire day listening to them. It is not advisable either to invest too much time in investigating every request thoroughly.

You should establish a forum where customers can post their ideas for your product development team to review. This forum will enable your team to comment and interact with customers interested in enhancing your product. You can ask them to keep those requests as brief and straightforward as possible.

Hence: These were some of the common problems call center services generally confront regularly. We have shared simple and straightforward techniques to tackle these problems however, that does not mean, you won’t face any other problem other than these; also it wouldn’t be wise to think there could be other problems. Whatever, we have discussed so far is just half the picture. There are many other aspects of customer problems also.

Sure-Fire Ways to Handle Customer Complaints

When a customer comes to you with a complaint, the first thing you should do is listen to them. Let them tell you what the problem is and how it has affected them. It's important to show empathy and acknowledge their frustration. Once you understand the issue, work with the customer to find a solution. Be flexible and willing to offer different options, if possible. Try to resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.

After the issue has been resolved, follow up with the customer to make sure they are satisfied with the outcome. This shows that you value their business and are committed to providing excellent customer service.

It's also important to document the complaint and any actions taken to resolve it. This can help you identify patterns and improve your processes to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. Remember, handling customer complaints is an opportunity to show your commitment to customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty. Here are a few tricks and techniques you can use to handle the same very efficiently and effectively.

“Dealing with a continuous flow of customer demands on a daily basis can be a daunting task when attempting to devise a strategy to address the ongoing complaints. Nonetheless, it is achievable. You can enable your service teams to perform at their best by adhering to these steps.”

Look for Patterns in Customer Complaints

To address customer complaints, the initial step is to delve into the grievances that have been received. Utilizing tracking software can facilitate this process by providing easy access to feedback and metrics such as average call duration.

Then, search for commonalities. Are there certain complaints that multiple customers are experiencing? For instance, they might be reporting longer hold times during phone calls or encountering a bug in your product.

No matter what the complaints are, it is crucial to carefully scrutinize the feedback you are receiving. It is impossible to rectify a problem that you are not aware of. Agents must immediately report to their managers if they are receiving the same requests continually.

Speak with Your Customer Team

After analyzing the complaints, the subsequent step is to communicate this feedback to your service team. Engage with them regarding the challenges they encounter while addressing customer issues and gather any supplementary perspectives. Are they swamped with an abundance of calls and support tickets? Are they equipped with the appropriate tools to deliver excellent service? Is there a possibility of improving the existing service procedures?

Your service team interacts with customers daily, so their feedback is an asset in enhancing the overall customer experience. In fact, a  robust new-generation CRM system won’t provide you with instantaneous insights about customers' problems and ongoing challenges with the call center outsourcing process; only a live agent can provide you with that. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct regular meetings with your call center support agents.

Identify the Root Cause of Customer Problems

Once you have comprehended the customer issues, the following step is to deal with the primary causes. That is the hierarchy one must follow to ensure effective customer complaint handling. Identifying the root cause of the problem is probably the most important part.

For instance, if customers are complaining about long wait times on the phone, it could be due to calling during peak hours of the day when your service team is overwhelmed with an increased volume of calls. Here nobody is at the fault so think about a possible outcome.

Did you recently release a new product feature that has some bugs, leading to persistent complaints across the board? Perhaps the details of the new feature were not effectively communicated to customers and caused confusion.

Identifying the underlying causes will enable you to devise a plan, which we'll discuss next. Here the problem was the incurrence of a large call volume during a specific time of the day. You can narrow down the query and launch a self-service portal of the knowledge base.

Start Addressing Customer Pain Paints Forthrightly

After identifying the primary reason for customer dissatisfaction, the subsequent step is to implement a plan to resolve the issue. Do not tempt yourself to create an immediate plan of action after finding the root cause of the problem. You should be conscientious about the planning stage and ensure ruling out all facets of the root cause and try some alternative solutions for the problem, just to insure the best possible outcome.

  • If the root cause is a problem with your current internal service processes, then update them to make them more transparent to the team and provide additional training, if necessary.
  • Alternatively, your service team may have noticed a surge of customers calling for information that could be conveyed more effectively with a self-serve FAQ page or other similar options.
  • Developing a knowledge base that customers can use to troubleshoot their issues might be the best solution. This way, customers don't have to wait on hold, and it frees up your service reps' time to handle more complex service requests.

Read More: Importance of Knowledge Base and Ways to Create One for Call Center Services

Wrapping Up

In short, Customer complaints are expressions of dissatisfaction from customers regarding a product, service, or experience they have had with a company. Complaints can come in various forms, such as poor quality products, billing issues, delivery delays, rude behavior from employees, and more. Regardless of how small or big the problem is, we are responsible for eradicating customer complaints for obtaining maximum CX.

As a call center agent, it's essential to be prepared to handle customer complaints effectively. Call center agents can reciprocate in some subtle ways to ensure customer complaints are handled with full certainty such as active listening, empathy, apologizing, offering solutions, and following up with the customer. Call center operations require constant vigilance over customer pain points and challenges for optimal results. 

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