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How to Handle a Complaint

How to Handle a Complaint

How to Handle a Complaint

It is important that all your staff are trained in handling customer complaints.

Here is the six-step method to use when handling a complaint:

1. Listen without interruption.

2. Empathise with their feelings.

3. Question them to isolate the facts from the feelings.

4. Answer the factual objection to the best of your knowledge, complying with company policy and the law.

5. Confirm understanding.

6. Change the subject.

Six-Step System for Handling Objections

Conflict Management and Handling Difficult People : How to Handle a Complaint

Step one: Listen without interruption - Hear them out

Listen to the person without interruption.

Let them "Get things off their chest".

Step two: Reflect their position back to them

Restate their position and reflect back their emotions.

Memorise and use the phrase, "I understand you feel [description] and I want to help, so would you let me ask you a few questions?"

Empathise how they are feeling.

You must show empathy without necessarily showing any agreement.

Step three: Question down

Now you need to ask questions to discover the underlying facts.

You need to separate facts from the feelings, facts from the opinions, facts from accusations.

Your task is to narrow the objection to the "one most important thing".

You need to isolate the objection.

Step four: Answer their point to the best of your knowledge

Give them the best answer that the facts, your knowledge and your organisation will allow.

They must understand what your answer is. (Be clear).

They must understand the reasons for your answer. (Be rational).

Step five: Confirm agreement / understanding

Ensure that the person agrees with your answer.

People will either agree with you or not.

If they don't agree, or understand, return to step one.

And take them once more around the cycle.

If when they do agree, then move to step six.

Step six: Change the subject (or close the conversation)

The moment you have an agreement, change the subject.

Ask a reflex question.

A reflex question is a question they can answer easily and has the effect of changing the subject.

You need to develop three or four reflex questions that you can ask, whenever you need to change the focus of a conversation off the current topic.

Start with the phrase, "By the way, just for my notes what ...

  • Is your direct line phone number?"
  • Do you have a middle name or initial?"
  • What is your work postcode?" 

Once you have an agreement on the minor objection, change the subject.

Do not keep talking about a problem after you have resolved it.

Further reading: Delivering Effective Customer Service (Blog).

About the Author: Chris Farmer

Chris

Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Conflict Management and Handling Difficult People

  • Reason vs Excuse
    Learn to distinguish between a reason and an excuse; be determined, but not stubborn; separate facts from fiction.
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  • Conflict Resolution Skills
    Disputes within your organisation can be costly. Therefore you need to have a number of skills, including listening and questioning skills, together with negotiation and emotional management skills, in order to quickly find resolutions.
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  • How to Handle a Difficult Person in Six Easy Steps
    A simple six-step technique that will allow you to deal with argumentative people both at work and in your personal life.
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  • Conflict Resolution Training - How to Manage Conflict
    Conflict is inevitable since we all have our own ideas about what is true, fair and good. How we handle conflict is important.
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  • How to Manage Bullying in the Workplace
    If your job is to manage people, then it is highly likely that you will have to handle alleged bullying incidents. Here are some guidance notes on how to manage bullying.
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