Call Center Training: Handling Customer Complaints


Call center agents face daily challenges as they work hard to meet performance objectives while servicing callers with excellence. Customer complaints add to the stressful environment, however, and can often result in public relations disasters. By providing call center training, companies can improve the results they get while dealing with angry and complaining customers.


Importance of Agent Training in Call Centers

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Call center agents must have the ability to quickly assess the nature of a call, including a caller’s state of mind, so they can create a positive customer experience. In many cases, customers have experienced a problem that has caused frustration and dissatisfaction, but they understand that mistakes happen and are willing to work with a call center representative to find a satisfactory resolution. Angry customers are different.

Angry customers can come close to losing control over their emotions. They can use inappropriate language and make unreasonable demands. Making things worse, angry people seem more likely to spread the word of their negative experiences and can thereby cause a public relations nightmare by ranting about a brand on social media sites. In the call center environment, such hostility can catch agents by surprise and cause even the best employees to become frustrated.

Call center customer service can make a bad situation worse, if employees lack training. When call center agents have the right skills, however, they can can calm irate customers and find a satisfactory solution that also saves their business relationship. As a result, training that teaches agents how to handle complaints can improve call handling statistics as well as customer satisfaction and retention rates. The following tips can help companies increase the value and effectiveness of their call center, even when callers complain.


Steps to Handling an Angry Call

Call center agents should handle calls that involve complaints using the following guidelines.

1. Listening to The Customer

Every contact should begin with an agent engaging with active listening. By paying attention to the caller, an agent can usually tell within a few moments whether a caller is calm, frustrated or angry. Emotional callers often feel better after venting, especially when they know that someone was listening to them.

The call center agent should take notes while listening to make sure that all the caller’s concerns are addressed. Notetaking can also help the agent keep the conversation on track, even when the caller goes off topic. Also, the agent needs to understand and follow company guidelines for responding to threats and abusive language.

Caller: “I needed your product for an important meeting. Your product didn’t arrive on time, and when I finally received it, it was broken…”

Agent: “I see. Can you tell me more about what happened?”


2. Controlling Emotions

After listening to the caller vent, the agent must calmly respond because an argumentative response can cause the situation to worsen. A good way for agents to stay calm is to teach them to remind themselves that callers are angry at their employer, not at them. Also, agents should picture themselves in their callers’ situation so they can feel empathy. Deep breathing can also help an agent stay calm.

Caller: “What kind of company are you? Your brand is the worst that I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been working in this industry for twenty years. By the way, what’s your problem? You aren’t doing anything to help me.”

Agent: “I am here to help you. I will do everything possible to find a satisfactory solution.

Caller: “OK.”


3. Repeating The Facts

The call center agent should repeat facts that pertain to the call. Doing this will assure the caller that the agent is serious about resolving their complaint. The extra time can also help assuage the caller’s anger. Perhaps most importantly, repeating the facts gives agents a chance to make sure they properly understand the problem.

Agent: “When the item shipped, its estimated arrival was the fourth, but you didn’t receive it until the sixth.”

Caller: “That’s right.”


4. Staying Active

Call center agents must never place an aggravated customer on hold. Spending more time listening to music on hold can cause angry people to become even more irate. Rather than using the “hold” button, agents should explain what they are doing, so the caller understands why they briefly go silent. Callers who receive a play-by-play report on their agent’s activities can also feel a sense of comfort, knowing that their problem is about to be solved.

Agent: “I am reviewing your billing records right now. I’m seeing that you signed up for automatic payments. Is that right?”

Caller: “Yes, but the amount was wrong.”

Agent: “I’m opening your order details right now.”


5. Offering Solutions

Call center agent training should encourage agents to achieve a positive outcome by satisfying their customers. Agents who give their callers several options to choose from put callers in control. Agents can, for example, offer a refund or a coupon towards a future purchase.

Regardless of what the problems are, call center agents should be trained to always exceed expectations. When such a habit is in place, customer complaints will quickly be addressed and angry customers can become enthusiastic brand advocates.

Agent: “To resolve your problem, I can either issue a full refund or send you a voucher for the amount of your purchase that you can use for your next order.”

Caller: “If I accept the voucher do I need to send this broken item back?”

Agent: “No.”

Caller: “Thank you. Please send me the voucher. I appreciate your understanding.”


Businesses can enjoy substantial operational improvement call center operational improvement by training call center agents with the proper handling of customer complaints. By listening, staying calm, getting the facts right, staying active and offering a choice of solutions, agents can bring about a good end to situations that could otherwise have catastrophic outcomes. By handling complaints well through excellent customer service, companies can build a stellar reputation and a healthy bottom line.


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