At many large companies, customer service departments use a set of scripts to help staff find quick solutions to common problems. Over the course of business, however, you are likely to encounter off-script complaints that don't fit into the existing service framework. By doing your research and preparing in advance, you can handle unexpected calls gracefully and effectively.
Before you can handle off-script complaints, it is crucial to understand company policy. Consult the manual or speak with your supervisor to find the preferred method for dealing with material that is not covered in the scripts. Then, ask how much autonomy you have to create custom solutions. Does your company allow agents the freedom to find the best possible answer for a customer, a la Zappos, or must you stick to an approved list? When can you make exceptions? Are there restrictions in place for timing, costs or product types? Is supervisor approval required? The more information you gather in advance, the easier it is to know your limits while dealing with off-script complaints.
When off-script complaints come in, and your manual doesn't turn up any answers, your initial response is crucial. Instead of stammering or getting flustered, strive to maintain a professional and even demeanor; in the process, you'll avoid losing the customer's confidence. Gauge the caller's mood and level of patience before choosing your next action. An angry customer may grow frustrated if you place him on hold without an explanation. Instead, offer a brief but honest explanation, and ask if he would prefer you to call him back in a few minutes with a solution.
Many service agents are accustomed to reading directly from a script rather than thinking critically through a scenario. With off-script complaints, it is crucial to turn off your autopilot mode and begin listening carefully. Repeat the problem back to the customer to ensure that you have the correct details, taking notes if needed. Doing so can help you personalize your responses. Avoid falling into an impersonal or robotic tone, aiming instead for empathy and approachability. Since unexpected complaints may take more time to solve, a friendly tone can improve the mood and release tension.
Perhaps the most important part of handling off-script calls is the resolution. Whether or not you have the power to provide a custom solution right away, leave the customer with closure. Offer to call back within a specific time frame, give the best option you can, or state the company policy in a way that leaves no questions.
Off-script complaints are rarely the easiest calls, but they are an inevitable part of a service agent's job. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of your freedom and flexibility before a call comes in, you can provide quick service and keep customers happy.
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