How to Resolve Customer Service Conflicts

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Operating a business provides an opportunity for customer conflict to arise. The manner in which these conflicts are resolved, however, can make or break the company's relationship with a customer. Training managers and staff in both interpersonal and conflict resolution skills gives your company the power to fix customer service problems peacefully and swiftly.

Diffuse the situation. Greet the customer politely and cordially when entering the conflict. Apologize to the customer regardless of who is wrong or right. Tell the customer that you're devoting your full attention to the situation until it is resolved. Get a brief synopsis of the details from employees. Ask questions about what the conflict is about, what request the customer is making and the products or services involved. Write down important information given to you by employees.

Change the conflict venue. Invite the customer to a private meeting room, human resources area or some other location of the store or building away from other customers. Taking the conflict away from the immediate area ensures that other customers' experiences won't be harmed. It also gives the dissatisfied customer an opportunity to calm down.

Read the customer's body language to assess the level of irritability, anger or antipathy towards you, your employees and the company. Listen intently to the customer's side of the story, so that you may obtain additional details. Restate to the customer, in your own words, your understanding of the conflict. Discuss the situation with the customer, taking an understanding, yet firm, tone. Tell the customer that you understand and offer a second apology, if you have determined that your company or its employees are at fault.

Resolve the problem and end the conflict. Explain your actions to the customer, including what you can and cannot do to fix the problem. Compensate the customer if your company was in the wrong, offering solutions, like gift cards or discount coupons, consistent with your customer service policies and values. Make a commitment to the customer to offer a higher level of service during future visits.

Tips & Warnings

  • Escort unrelenting, angry customers out of your building or call local law enforcement, if necessary.
  • Make a follow-up phone call to customers after a conflict has ended to thank them for their patronage or offer another apology.
  • Do not take customer's anger or emotions personally.
  • Do not make promises to the customer that you can't keep.

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