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Five ways to manage frustrated customers in the utility sector

From the Knowledge Centre

Dealing with frustrated customers is a common challenge for customer service teams. Whether it’s higher-than-expected bills, service disruptions, or a customer simply having a bad day, emotions can sometimes boil over. Research shows that more than a third (36%) of service professionals have experienced hostility in the last six months.

Although customer service representatives shouldn’t have to endure hostile behaviour, there are effective skills and processes that water utility providers can use to protect their team and maintain customer satisfaction.

  1. Effective training - Customer service professionals need to be equipped with the skills to communicate simply, use non-technical language, and ensure they understand the soft skills and personality attributes that customers respond well to. Without effective and continuous training, customer communications won’t be handled appropriately.

  2. Active listening - In all communications, the customers should get the representative’s full attention without interruption or judgment. Team members should show empathy and engage with the customer using verbal prompts and regular assurances that they are listening.

  3. Expectation setting - The key to avoiding frustrating a customer further is setting clear expectations. If call wait times are longer than usual be sure to tell customers how long they can expect to be on hold. Also, if it’s not going to be possible to resolve the query whilst on the call, share that with the customer and let them know when to expect the next steps and a follow-up.

  4. Verbal de-escalation techniques - In all circumstances where customers are becoming frustrated, it’s important that the representative remains calm. A professional, even tone can help to diffuse tension. But if this doesn’t seem to be helping the customer, the team member should seek assistance from a more experienced team member, whether that be a coach or leader. Sentiment tracking technology is also helpful. Combining technology with the human touch ensures that customers receive the best outcome possible.

  5. Escalation processes - Ultimately, customer service representatives should not have to deal with unreasonable behaviour. If steps to diffuse the situation don’t seem to be working, processes for severe cases and escalation need to be introduced. Customer service representatives need to feel confident that they can involve a team leader to end and resolve any abusive calls.

Find out more about how we can help your customer service team here.

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