How to respond to tough customer service situations

squinting call cente agent with headache

How well can your call center agents respond to challenging situations?

Preparing for worst-case scenarios allow agents to learn how to respond to customers the right way. During these moments, it’s even more crucial to show customers that your reps can handle difficult issues effectively.

However, it’s not advisable to use scripts. When agents recite scripted lines, conversations become lifeless and dull, which is the last thing customers want. Instead of scripts, semi-structured but flexible responses are more useful. They allow reps to respond intelligently without having to shun their unique communication style.

You must therefore tackle the different types of challenging scenarios during your customer service training program. Below are a few challenging situations agents may encounter and tips on how to handle them.


1.     Transferring a customer

office employee under landline phones

No customer likes being passed from agent to agent or from one department to another, but there are instances when you have to do this to better help them. In these cases, be considerate and tactful.

Many customers get annoyed when they don’t know why they’re being transferred, and a curt response won’t help. Here’s an example:

“Sir/Ma’am, I’m sorry but I have to transfer this call to Department B.”

Here’s a much better response:

“Hello, [name of caller]! Let’s work on this issue right away. I’m going to transfer you to Department B. They’re a specialist on these types of issues, so I’m confident they can give you great advice.”

Letting customers know specifically why the call is being transferred is more reassuring than a vague response.


2.     Defective products

asian man frustrated with phone call

When your products don’t work as intended, you compromise the entire customer experience. This may increase your customer churn rate.

Getting a call from a disheartened customer is, in a way, a good sign. That means you still have a chance to make it up to them. Customers may express intense frustration, but your agents must empathize with them and act on the problem immediately.

Here’s an example of an appropriate response:

“I’m very sorry to hear about this. It seems like there’s been a mistake on our part, and we want to make your experience better. Can you tell me your address so I can ship a replacement immediately? We’d also send you a complimentary coupon to make up for this inconvenience.”

3.     Impossible requests

worried suprised call center representative on a phone call

Brands strive to make their customers happy in every possible way. However, there are times when you have to say no, especially if granting a request means violating a policy or harming other customers.

In these instances, customer service agents must be firm but compassionate. Below is an example of an effective response:

“Hi, [name of customer]. I understand where you’re coming from. But as much as I want to fulfill all our customers’ requests, I’m afraid this is against our policy. We make sure to abide by our rules to give all customers equal opportunities. Can I perhaps tell you alternative ways to resolve this so we can meet halfway?”

It’s definitely hard to refuse a customer, but you must also stand by the policies your organization implements. As much as possible, look for other ways to improve the situation and explore these options with the customer.


4.     Unavailable items

problematic businessman in phone call standing along outdoors

Product shortages are a nightmare for every brand. When a customer wants to buy something that you don’t have, you may lose a lot of profit and customers may switch to a different brand. To avoid this, agents must use positive statements instead of negative ones.

Responses like this are a no-no:

“We won’t have that product until next month. Please wait until then to buy that item.”

Here’s a much better one:

“Thanks for your interest! The item will be available next month, and I can place your order right now so we can send it to you as soon as it arrives.”

Emphasizing the desirable outcomes blunts the impact of a bad news. When you point to the solution right away, customers are less likely to be disappointed.


5.     Ending a conversation

customer support agent with awkard facial expression

Customer service interactions must only be closed when all concerns have been addressed. Ending a conversation properly leaves a good impression on customers, letting them know that you truly care about them.

Simple closing statements like this are always well-appreciated by customers:

“Before you go, is there anything else I can help you with? I’ll be glad to assist you.”

It’s important to ask customers if they have additional concerns or they might leave with an unresolved issue. This not only reduces the volume of calls you get but also improves the customer experience.



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