What are the difficult customer service scenarios?
Contact centers are struggling with obvious and challenging customer service scenarios day by day. Should I use the unique approach to obvious requests? The answer is a resounding "Yes". However, a creative approach is relevant until you find an effective blueprint to handle them fast and profitably.
After that, you should apply them naturally. There is an opinion that a blueprint for challenging scenarios doesn't exist. Thinking so is not only wrong but actually harmful.
The main difference between obvious and challenging scenarios is that you need to work harder to make them effective. Frankly, all you need is a strong pattern, behavior, treatment, and exclusion of the reinventing of a wheel over and over again.
Once you apply and regard the proven ways listed below, it saves you dozens of hours and thousands of dollars. And we’ll give you great answers to the question of how to manage a complex customer service issue.
Difficult customers scenarios your customer service team handles
Of course, there's always the option of studying your service to the highest degree. This will eliminate most of the problems with difficult customers. But, reps are incapable of knowing everything, even regarding their main product or service.
Despite the fact, these difficult customer service situations are the main concern of newbie reps, qualified ones are sometimes stuck. Now, read about good and bad customer service scenarios to have a full roadmap in your contact center.
You don’t know the answer
If you are incapable of answering the question right now, you shouldn’t reveal it directly by saying “I don’t know the answer”.
Use positive language:
“Mr/Mrs. (Name of a customer), I understood your question. Now, I need the time to prepare the latest information for you. Would you mind if I give you a callback in a few minutes?”
That conversation gives you a vital time for finding the question and defusing the high emotional pressure for both you and the customer.
If, however, a person insists on the answer right away, you should transfer a call to the more experienced rep or try to compel a customer to wait. It may look as follows:
“Mr/Mrs. (name) I understand the urgency of your request, yet I try to provide the best service to you, so I need a few minutes to give you the latest information on your request”.
Do you see how it flows in the mind of the customer? They are trying to provide "the best service!".
You need to transfer the call
When your expertise is not strong enough to provide the relevant issue, what you need is to transfer a call to a qualified rep. It’s much better to transfer a call than to mislead or deliver irrelevant info to a customer.
The script for this looks as follows:
“Mr/Mrs. (name). Your request must be handled by our professional in this area, so I need to transfer your call. Would you mind, if I do it right away?”.
That’s polite, professional and this is all you can do in this situation.
The product is run out of the stock
When products are so popular or, controversially, rarely ordered, they might run out of stock. In this case, it’s easy to compel an angry customer to wait for the new party of the product or to inform them about the end of the product line. However, as we mentioned previously, you can use this as an opportunity by offering other products.
Take a look at the conversation as a product team representative:
“Mr. Mrs (name), this product ran out of stock for now. Now, we’re waiting for it next (week, month, quarter, year, date)”. Or if your company stops delivery you can use a potential solution: “Mr./Mrs. (name), unfortunately, this product ran out of stock and we’re not waiting for additional supply. Would you rather try out the alternative solution or the products similar to this, such as (products)?”
Here are the most challenging examples of angry customer situations
"The customer is always right". However, sometimes you have to break this rule. The frequent situation, when you need to refuse unhappy customers because a request isn’t in the best interest of your company, has financial or negative consequences.
For instance, these requests, are about avoiding identity verification procedures, confirmation, payment, etc. Or these are requests you simply can’t bring to fruition. Either way, use positive language and refuse politely:
“Mr/Mrs. (name) I understand the urgency and the purpose of your request. Our purpose is to give you a particular (product or service). Now, we need to fulfill the procedure to make sure you achieve the best and timely service”.
The company delivered garbage to a customer
In these jittery times, the most difficult customer situation is when a product is garbage. All you can do is defuse the situation to the possible common degree.
Customer service reps in a contact center understand the customer’s situation, only from the words they hear. As a result, they can quickly observe the picture of the situation to act accordingly. Here’s how it looks:
“Mr./Mrs. (name) I understand that (product/service) you’re achieved is not what you need. Don’t worry we will do everything in our power to solve this issue in the shortest time. Let me have a brief conversation with my manager and then I will give you a callback”.
Now, think about it. Reps are unable to solve issues of this kind because the situation can be tricky. The trick is that all the information you have about the quality of a product is words from an angry customer.
You need to verify this information and understand, whether this is a unique situation or this is the real garbage company delivered in a recent time. Moreover, answering about the solution, unless you have the latest insights or strong confidence – is dangerous.
After finding a solution, consulting with the manager, and achieving the relevant information, give a callback as you promised and explain the situation.
Problem-solving skills in a delivery lateness
Everyone wants to achieve the product in a precise time. As always, in the eyes of customers, there are no excuses for the lateness. Interestingly, even the most successful companies of the world sometimes fail to deliver products, even with the perfect supply chain.
If the cause of lateness is real, customers will gladly receive your explanation. The blueprint for this scenario looks as follows:
“Mr/Mrs. (name), your product is late because of (cause) and I do everything to bring it to you as fast as possible. Now, I have the confirmation that your product will be available at (date)”.
The most difficult customer service situation you can meet
Now, you need to know the proven ways to handle the most difficult scenarios, and here are the answers.
Rep made a mistake
Mistakes are stressful for an upset customer and you, especially, if you made the mistake with financial or time-consuming consequences. Take a look at the conversation such as this:
“Mr./Mrs. (name). We receive the information that the reason why you don’t achieve (subject) is the mistake from our side. I will do everything in my power to solve the problem and I’ll give you the callback in a few minutes about this issue.”
Of course, leaving the customer with the problem you created is not only unprofessional but the cause number one of customer churn. Don't drop the problem, figure out the solution, and inform the customer as soon as possible.
When a customer made a mistake
Not only do reps or companies make mistakes, yet sometimes it’s the customer's fault. If you don't want a frustrated customer, never try to accuse them directly or in a way they can feel it. Try to defuse the situation first by describing the big picture of what happened. For instance:
“Mr./Mrs. (name). The particular situation happened because we achieved the order with (particular information). Now, the product arrived in this place. I am working on solving this and solutions just about ready”.
As you see, no accusation, just real facts about what a person has really done.
A customer escalates the conflict
Escalations are stressful when you have a lot of things to do. In some cases, you meet rude customers from the beginning. In other cases, the conversation escalated like a snowball. Here’s how you can handle the situation:
“Mr./Mrs. (name), we do our best in this situation, and now, I’m trying to save your time, because I understand how your time is important for you. I’m working on your request and we can find the solution together.”
Sometimes it's not enough, and a customer just neglects everything you say. If the customer insults a personal rep, they have all the right to transfer the call to a manager, if possible.
The plus of transferring those calls to a senior person is in the authority they have. Managers can persuade the difficult customer or hang up the call if the person crosses the line. And the rep will feel absolutely safe, knowing they have done everything in this situation.
If a customer wants the supervisor to respond
In the majority, this happens, when customers perceive problems will be solved once they speak with a more senior person. In practice, it rarely happens. Or they just want to vent their complaints to someone authoritative.
Take a look at the script:
“I understand you want to speak with our manager, in this situation I would do the same. I appreciate your time, so I try to save it for you as much as possible. Let’s handle it now”.
If difficult customers insist, just transfer the call and give them what they want.
How do you deal with a difficult customer?
No matter how hard customers behave and how challenging scenarios are, you can turn them into typical situations. What really matters is whether the customer maintains the relationship with a company or switches to another brand.
However, it’s possible to turn the situation around and even prevent these situations. Below, you find out the ways to effectively fulfill both opportunities.
Identify customer’s intentions
The most important thing in any conversation is to quickly find out what is really on the mind of customers. Experienced reps identify the real purpose of the call in the blink of an eye.
And before the customer ends to speak, they have a rough plan for action. Newbies sometimes panic when they need to find rapid solutions or when they don’t understand what’s on the mind of customers.
However, depending on the tone, words, and purpose of a call, it’s possible to define the real intentions. Interestingly, the more knowledge you have about your product and service, corporate policy, and cases, the more you are confidently handling challenging scenarios.
Build the rapport fast
Building a fast rapport is the skill every rep must master. And the first step toward this goal is to quickly create an impression that you are on the side of the customer.
Say: “Let’s handle this situation together”, “Let us help you, tell me more about the situation”, “So you say that this particular situation occurs for the first time?”. These examples establish your point of position as an ally.
Proper voice tone
Have you ever wondered why customers after a few words with you, start to behave in an aggressive way? Maybe, it’s because you used the wrong tone of voice tone. The positive attitude from the beginning of the conversation gives you the cutting edge to persuade customers.
Ask your colleagues about your tone, maybe there is something you didn't notice.
Respond as a professional
Professionalism is what the customer expects from you, after a human-like attitude. Don’t be afraid to inform the customer about your corporate policies, terms, and conditions, precise dates, and insights. After all, when the money is involved, it’s the best you can do – inform and behave as a professional.
Professional behavior means that your words are exactly what the company does. If you say that you give a callback, it’s professional to do so. When you say that the date for delivery is 11 December, it must be that way.
Professional behavior is when words equal actual situation. It’s important because intelligent customers forgive the lousy human treatment. While unprofessional behavior will be never forgiven.
Step-back in a figurative sense
That means that after delivering all the necessary information to a customer, all you need is to speak to the customer. The proactive conversation is what really counts. None of the customers want to hear a monologue, they want to respond.
So make a step back in a figurative sense, give the opportunity to customers say everything they want or vent, without interruptions. As a result, you'll significantly increase the customer experience.
Stay calm when a customer raises their voice, behaves harshly, and even abuses. There are a couple of reasons you should take a deep breath and chill.
- First. It’s healthy to listen to a customer without involving any personal emotions. You're professional on the job, not the buddy.
- Second. Any kind of emotional negativity from your side will quickly escalate to more aggressive behavior. It's a waste of money if you have a lot of long, escalating conversations.
- Third. Customers quickly identify the emotional state and tend to turn the conversation they want.
- Fourth. It saves much time and gives you vital options to walk the extra mile and turn the conversation in the opposite direction.
Frankly, staying calm may be the most challenging skill reps develop. However, when reps achieve enough experience, they forecast the emotional patterns and tend to sublime them.
Treat personally each customer
The more you treat your customer personally, the more successful your conversations will be. For instance: “Mr. Jones or Mrs. Jones” sounds very personal and already gives you a step closer to a customer. Unconsciously, even the most analytical type of customers want such a service.
Most contact centers have at least the first and second names of customers in their CRM systems. The main idea is to create the perception in the mind of customers that they aren’t one of the tens of thousands of other loyal customers. However, mention the customer’s second name to give them a clue that they have the meaning for you.
Arrange a callback to handle the situation
One of the ways to disarm the situation and handle challenging scenarios is to propose a callback. The only rule is to fulfill the promise. There are three major benefits of the callback for challenging calls:
- First. You take a break and prepare the information for a customer.
- Second. It reduces the emotional strain between the rep and the customer.
- Third. The second conversation will be much more productive than the first because you’ll know everything about the situation and have the time to prepare.
Find the fastest solution possible
Customers want to achieve the fastest solution possible, no matter what. The faster you respond with the relevant information – the better for your business.
Do your homework – study the product or service, dissatisfied customers, and purposes of calls. Always attend training to be always in shape during challenging conversations.
There are 4 types of customers you’ll meet in challenging scenarios
Despite the fact, every person is unique, in the majority of cases, there are only four types of customers. They have their own psychological types. Your job is to create a blueprint for each of them. Here are these 4 types:
- Open for conversation. They like to have long conversations because they like to speak a lot. They also quickly try to build rapport with others to identify what they have on their mind.
They’re empathetic and expect the same from others. The interesting fact about them, they like to joke and easily accept jokes in response. It’s easy to build rapport with them for almost everyone.
- Promote themselves. They like to speak a lot and are interested in what your company does for them. They tend to be emotionally empathetic as the first type of customer.
The only difference is that they present themselves, if necessary, and are rarely humble. They’re emotionally stable and want the same from a rep.
- Direct type. They want to achieve their information, product, or explanations right away. It’s better to give quickly what they want. What they also want is human-like treatment, perhaps as much personal treatment as possible.
Try to deliver to them what they want quickly. If not, give all facts you have to defuse the situation during challenging scenarios.
- Analytical type. They try to analyze the conversation in detail and understand what the outcome of each word rep says. They tend to be less emotional than the other 3 types of customers and cover this with cold thinking.
Try to be logical, deliver precise information including numbers, dates, and consequences.
Mistakes to avoid
A huge number of reps fail to attract any potential customer and foster customer loyalty because they’re lacking basic communication skills. These are the mistakes you need to avoid in order to maintain high productivity and fewer complaints from customers.
Don’t answer if you’re not sure
The situation tends to walk in the wrong way, when reps are too creative and deliver the wrong information. Think about it for a minute. Customers call and the rep furnishes them with irrelevant information.
The solution: Never say something you’re not confident enough about. It’s better to transfer a call, arrange a callback than say something that is not true.
Provide excellent customer service instead of panic
Newbies are the first category of reps that tend to panic when they handle challenging situations. It’s because of experience, lack of knowledge, or rep emotional type. Why should you never panic? Because you will not achieve the desired result and only waste your time, energy, and money.
Instead of panicking and providing a poor experience, it’s better to handle calls a little bit longer, think about what customers say, and after good thinking, respond.
The solution: Instead of humbling, say: “Could you repeat the last word please?”, “Could you speak a little bit slower/louder, please?”, “Excuse me, there is some noise in the area you’re currently in. Could you speak with me in a quiet place, so I could hear you better? Please”.
This professional, polite, and customer will do as you say and cooperate on that point. So never be humble to ask customers for it.
Top role-playing ideas for customer service training
During the pandemic, when reps have to be prepared fast, the time for training is drastically reduced. These days, reps must be quickly trained and start to work right away, yet reduction of training to zero or low level has negative consequences.
Previously, companies tried to maintain reps in shape by constant training. Smart heads of contact centers devote a constant number of hours each week for shaping and developing customer service skills for both newbies and experienced reps.
Before the shift, and conversations with the impatient customer, every rep in a contact center should do their homework. Homework includes the most important features of work such as:
Knowledge. Handling the most challenging scenarios is easy when reps know what exactly they need to do and say.
Frankly, the only way to ensure the remarkable performance of the rep is to give materials, specs, cases, scripts, etc. It’s hard to estimate how much money companies lose each year, just because their reps aren’t prepared with the information they need to obtain, in order to provide top service.
Some managers argue that it’s too complicated for reps to study the materials and to work. But think about the outcomes first. Productivity, conversation rates, and customer satisfaction are skyrocketing in the case of good preparation.
Active listening and communication skills for every impatient customer. While knowledge is the basis, communication skills are the vital conveyor. These are the main communicating skills:
- speech flow;
- advocacy language;
- body language;
- rapport building, and more.
The constant practice of their knowledge in a real situation is the critical step in obtaining strong skills. Newbies quickly achieve the capacity to handle challenging scenarios, once they start to test themselves.
And there is no other way to perform, only practice will ensure your rep’s ease for handling hard calls. New skills especially must be trained more frequently. For instance, you need to develop a skill for building a rapport with a particular employee.
Make sure that this particular employee tries at least 10 times a day to build rapport with a customer. Or if you need to develop the skill for cross-selling. Urge your staff to practice at least 10 times per shift to compel a customer to buy something from you.
Meetings have always been the place where everyone could share experiences, troubles, concerns, etc. Today, the value of meetings drastically declined. Managers want fast solutions that bring profits without any meetings whatsoever.
During the high-pressured shift, it’s hard to explain to reps what they need to perform. On the contrary, the huge plus of meetings is they are the place where reps are the most concentrated on what managers speak and want.
The second reason why meetings are valuable is that managers could involve more effectively in future reps' activities. Everyone in a company should attend meetings. Today, connecting to zoom or slack conversation is easy.
The important notes about meetings:
- Arrange meetings on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Monday and Friday are busy days. On Monday, everyone is tired by the end of the day. On a Friday, everyone wants to rest.
- Arrange at least one meeting in two weeks. Less than that, and you’ll achieve a lack of performance. Everybody forgot what you were saying last time. More than that could be the result, reps will be overwhelmed by the information.
- Time. Every meeting shouldn’t be longer than 45 minutes. Longer, and reps turn from active listening to tiredness.
- Give everyone a chance to speak. Let those who want to express their ideas speak. And don’t forget to urge everyone to speak if they have something on their mind.
- Use meetings as an effective tool for delivering relevant information to your staff, training, giving homework, managing shifts, solving staff problems, etc.
Mentoring from experienced reps and manager
The huge experience is lost unless managers mentor newbies about tricks they are unaware of. While reading relevant materials is important, the supreme knowledge and performance stem from supervisors and managers.
Reps know that certain successful ways to handle challenging scenarios they have are because of mentorship from senior staff. And this is so wasteful, to exclude mentorship. Just think about it. Managers have 5, 10, or 20 years of practice and they know almost anything about the subject.
It's productive to give someone hard-earned experience by increasing the overall contact center's performance.
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