English on the phone (Part 4)

How to handle complaints: English on the phone (Part 4)

Wir präsentieren in Zusammenarbeit mit dem „English Teacher Training College and Bilingual Classroom Initiative (ABCi)“ regelmäßig kurze Business Englisch-Übungen. Die Übungen werden von Native Speakern der ABCi zusammengestellt.

For the final installment of English on the phone, we face the ultimate test of your nervous system and language skills: complaints! If you have followed this series you are a total pro at answering the phone, transferring calls and handle a call! Now it’s time for one of our ABCi staff, a former receptionist for an international corporation, to share her secrets. Today’s question: How to handle a call yourself?

While constructive feedback is a necessary and useful tool for every business, it does need to be handled professionally. Let’s do this together!

1. Validate the feelings, but not the facts

Most complaints come from an emotional place. It’s important to validate customers’ feelings, though not necessarily the facts they present. Here are some phrases that may help to make the customer feel heard, while setting professional boundaries:

  • “I’m very sorry to hear that.”
  • “I understand what you mean.”
  • “That must have been a frustrating experience.”
  • “I can assure you that we take this type of thing very seriously.”
  • “I agree with you: you can expect the best service from us, and that doesn’t sound like it.”

2. Underline your corporate values

  • “All of our staff should be aware of our core values and act accordingly. I can only apologise if that wasn’t the case.”
  • “Thank you very much for taking the time to call us today. It’s only feedback such as yours that helps us improve our customer service.”
  • “We know how important it is to listen to our customers. Thank you for your feedback.”

3. Be proactive

Complaints often stem from a chaotic experience, so it’s all the more important for your customer service to appear well organised. You should have a plan of action in place, and let the customer know exactly what will happen next.

  • “I have taken down the details of what you told me, and will file a complaint on your behalf.”
  • “You will get a reply within xxx days.”
  • “Your ticket number is xxx.”

4. De-escalate

Especially with customers who are very upset, making them feel heard often helps (see point 1). The ultimate goal of course is to get the conversation away from emotional, towards factual. Stay away from overly emotional words such as horrible, awful or bad. The following phrases might help you deal with every customer service representative’s nightmare: angry and abusive customers.

  • “I do not appreciate your tone.”
  • “You are shouting. I’m afraid I can only help you if you calm down.”
  • “I will have to ask you to calm down, otherwise you are forcing me to put the phone down.”

Well done. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Next time, we will move on to brighter things: holiday conversation!

Das „English Teacher Training College and Bilingual Classroom Initiative (ABCi)“ ist eine Non-Profit-Organisation mit Hauptsitz in Vorchdorf in Oberösterreich, der 2011 von einem Amerikaner und einem Australier gegründet wurde. Ziel ist es, eine Ausbildungsplattform für Englischlehrer aus der ganzen Welt zu sein und damit gleichzeitig das Sprachenlernen und den Kulturaustausch zwischen englischsprachigen Ländern und Österreich zu fördern. ABCI vermittelt angehende Lehrer von englischsprachigen Ländern in österreichische Klassenzimmer für Projekte mit den Kindern und will bis zum Jahr 2020 jedes Schulkind in Österreich durch einen englischsprachigen Native Speaker unterrichtet haben.

Daneben werden auch für Erwachsene Mitgliedschaften und Englischkurse durch Native Speaker angeboten. Teilnehmer seien großteils Berufstätige, die sich neu orientieren wollen, sowie selbstständige Unternehmer, die sich verstärkt mit einem internationalen Publikum verständigen möchten. Die Kurse finden an den drei Ausbildungsstandorten Vorchdorf (OÖ), Pressbaum (NÖ) und Frantschach (Kärnten) statt. Nähere Infos auch auf der Website unter: www.abci-english.at