After a recent escalation from a very angry customer, the agent handling the call expressed gratitude and was quite surprised the customer was able to calm down and allow me the opportunity to resolve their problem. Having done this for a while, perhaps I had taken for granted the ease in which customer service should apologize. As this was a teachable moment, I took time to coach the agent on the approach I take.
While there are numerous ways to offer an apology, the best way to ruin one, is to make excuses, and take offense to the frustration directed at your brand. Therefore, the best way to start is to simply allow time for the customer to vent- without interruption. This approach has worked so well, at times the customer would stop mid-sentence and ask, "Are you there?" I respond by stating I wanted to give them all the time to vent and listen to their concerns. Usually, that is followed by a chuckle and, "I'm sorry, I just want to get this solved?" At this point, it is up to you to make things right!
The Art of Apologizing
Being sympathetic is the starting point to apologizing. Sympathy allows you to understand the customer's experience. You place yourself in their shoes, and by doing so, you are sensitive to the frustrations and anxiety they are feeling. Because your feelings are now in harmony with that of the customer's, effective resolution becomes your primary focus. Likewise, you less likely to be offended and defensive.
Own it by letting the customer know you are aware of their concerns, and that you will work to resolve it. Now is not the time for excuses. Explain to the customer what you plan to do bring a swift, satisfactory resolution.
Explain the cause of the problem. Again, this is not an excuse, but the reason. A big part of defusing the situation is through transparency. When you allow your customers to get a glimpse of the internal, underlying issue, they become sympathetic to you, or at the least, less frustrated. After all, accidents happen.
Follow up with the customer. Provide updates as need, notify them the problem has been resolved if it could not be resolved immediately or, check in to verify the issues has not reoccurred.
It's not that hard to do, and your customers will greatly appreciate your willingness to make things right. Oh, and don't forget to allow agents to offer discounts, or provide something of value for the customer's inconvenience.
I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.
I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.
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