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The general rule when dealing with complaints is to treat them with respect and dignity. Good communication skills are essential and we have covered many of these points previously. We will now explore how these points are relevant to handling complaints.

Listen carefully to what the customer has to say, and let them finish.  Never interrupt your customer, they have something to say so let them say it. Don’t interrupt them, it is a good opportunity for them to air the issue and to get their point across. It helps to make notes at this stage to refer to at a later date.

Keep calm, your customer may be angry, sometimes this is with good cause, do not let this affect your behaviour. Keep calm, and listen intently. If this happens with a face to face then make sure your body language is open and approachable. If this occurs on the telephone then try standing up as this helps you to feel in control of the conversation.

If a customer becomes abusive then you reserve the right not to be spoken to in an abusive manner or put in a position that makes your vulnerable. In most cases where this happens to try the phrase ‘Please refrain from using that language or behaving in that way’, this will often diffuse the situation as the customer may not be aware that they are being abusive. 

If this occurs over the telephone then advice the customer that if they continue then the call may be terminated, your company will have an individual policy on terminating telephone calls. Should this happen on a face to face basis then ensure that you have the appropriate support such as a colleague or the security team who will potentially need to escort the customer off the premises.

Ask relevant questions. Questions should be relevant and in the context of the conversation. It helps to refer back to what the customer originally said and state ‘just to confirm my understanding’…. Then confirm the issue back to the customer and ask, is this correct? This shows them that you have been listening and helps the customer to understand that you have taken this seriously and gives them confidence that you will be able to help.

Be sympathetic and empathise:
Always sympathise with the customer and put yourself in their position, think about how you would want to be treated. Always apologise even if you don’t feel like their complaint is justified, try ‘I’m sorry that you are unhappy with the service received’. This will often diffuse any anger originally projected by the customer and they now feel that you are on their side.

Take ownership for resolving the situation:
Always take responsibility for getting the matter resolved, you aren’t able to resolve the matter then tell the customer what the next steps are. Ask them ‘what solution would you like me to offer you?’ this allows you to understand what the customer wants. 
This may be a simple and straightforward solution that is easy to implement, in which complaint gets resolved! If not then always keep your customer informed, contact them to let them know of any progress or even just a courtesy call to let them know they have not been forgotten.

Try and resolve the problem before it is escalated, escalated complaints are more expensive and timely. Don’t just resolve the issue, explain to the customer how this happened and how it can be avoided in the future.
From a business point of view, it is better than you invest your time to resolve this matter quickly.
Take notes:
You will find that nothing annoys a customer as much as not being listened to or feeling that you have not understood them. Always make notes of complaints and where necessary inform colleagues of ongoing issues. This helps you in many ways such as if the situation escalates and has to be independently investigated but also helps your colleagues should they have to deal with the issue in your absence.

There is a number of tips that should be implemented when handling a complaint, make sure that you are approachable and that you take the matter seriously and this situation should easily be resolved.