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Manage Customer Complaints Effectively on the Phone

If you deal with customers, then you'll appreciate the challenges of dealing with an angry customer via telephone. 

In face-to-face situations, the use of facial expressions, body language, and proxemics all serve to show empathy and engagement. 

Unfortunately, when these cues are taken away, managing the customer complaint becomes an even bigger challenge and introduces more opportunities for miscommunication or escalation.

For this reason, it's essential that the customer service agent uses top-notch telephone skills to resolve the complaint satisfactorily.

So how do we overcome these challenges when dealing with customer complaints via telephone? 

Below, we've listed ten simple tips to get you on the right path:

Quick Tips to Help you Manage Customer Complaints Effectively on the Phone

Actively Listen

Ask the customer to detail the problem and allow them to do so without interrupting or trying to jump to solutions. Make use of small, unobtrusive vocal cues to indicate that you are listening. If you need to ask questions to further hone the problem, then ask open questions and give the customer ample opportunity to answer them.

Summarise the Problem

Once you are happy the customer has had sufficient opportunity to outline their problem, then summarise it. This demonstrates that a) you have actively listened to what they have to say, b) that you understand what they have said, and c) that you are invested in finding a solution.


Once the individual confirms that your understanding is correct, then apologise. Even if your company is not at fault, apologising helps de-escalate the situation and can go a long way to helping calm the customer down.

Make sure that the language you use when doing so, isn't scripted as this tends to be obvious to the customer and will undo any good work that you've done so far. Instead, use language and sentiments that are removed from corporate cliches. Instead of saying, 'I am sorry that we have let you down on this occasion', consider saying, ' I would feel the same in your situation, so I can understand why you feel like that'.

Be Realistic

It's important that you manage expectations appropriately when considering a solution. Don't tell the customer everything will be resolved in the next hour, or that they will receive a replacement by the next day if it won't be the case. Instead, let them know the steps being taken to resolve the situation and only commit to dates that are realistic. If it's a simple case of sending them a replacement product, then let me know when the product will be dispatched and when they can expect to receive it. Alternatively, if this is an issue that needs to be escalated to a different department or member of staff, then advise that this will be the case and let them know how quickly it will be dealt with. 

Take Ownership

Take ownership of the complaint and ensure things happen on time. For example, if you have advised your customer that a replacement product will be sent on a particular day, then check internally that it has been dispatched on time. If you have advised your client that a different department will contact them by a certain date then check this has happened. If there's any chance of your commitments not be delivered upon, then you should chase and drive the necessary traction.

Turn the Complaint into a Positive Review

Complaints aren't always a negative. They can also be an opportunity to gain your company a great review by going above and beyond with your resolution. For example, if a replacement product was sent, then consider calling the customer to check they received it and that they are happy with it. If the resolution involved escalation, then call your customer to update them on what's happening. In fact, research by Harvard Business Review shows the value of complaints in driving repeat business. 

Bespoke Business Training in the South West 

Manage complaints effectively by taking part in one of our high-impact training courses. Our courses are tailored to ensure they hit the right spot for our clients. They are then delivered on-site via a member of our fully qualified training team. 

Whether you're in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, or Somerset, we have a fantastic team of trainers on your doorstep and ready to help!

Main blog image by Berkeley Communications

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