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The complaining caller

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in Workplace Communication

You’ve had nothing but constant interruptions all morning as deadlines loom and then the phone rings ... again. Seconds later, you find yourself on the other end of a loud, complaining customer, client or colleague whose expectations haven’t been met. What do you do?

Although it’s tempting to “accidentally” be disconnected, the best advice is to hang on and utilize basic customer-service techniques. Put yourself in the caller’s situation. He’s frustrated!

First, acknowledge his emotions. Don’t skip this step and here’s why: You want the caller to focus on the solution as well. Keep it short and simple, “Sounds frustrating. I’m glad you reached out.” That may be stretching the truth a bit, but this phraseology allows you to move forward more easily. Avoid saying “I understand,” which can cause backlash when they state, “No you don’t.”

The next step is to build the caller’s confidence that you can help. By saying, “I’m confident we can figure out a way to make this work. Let’s start at the beginning,” you allow the caller to open up and share the steps that have brought him to this place.

Listen actively throughout the conversation. Open-ended questions encourage the caller to deliver the details that will help you solve the problem. Paraphrasing shows you are still listening to his concerns and shows empathy.

Avoid phrases that suggest judgment. Instead, encourage actions through your phraseology. Say, “Here’s an option for you to try," or “perhaps by trying it this way you’ll get a better result.”

Remember, your tone of voice can make or break a conversation. Lower or soften your voice even more than usual to guard against coming across as aggressive, impatient or ornery.

When you require more information or additional support to solve the caller’s needs, be certain to take down accurate information and follow up as quickly as possible.

Even if digging for answers takes longer than expected, keep the caller in the loop via e-mail or a return call.

Ironically, the complaining caller may just leave you more energized knowing you responded professionally and truly helped another.

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