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challenging customers

Dealing with Challenging Customer Conversations

Learn how to deal with challenging customer conversations

As budget cuts, welfare reforms and demand for services continue to bite, local authority contact centres are having to deal with ever more challenging customer conversations - often involving angry, distressed and vulnerable callers.

But even experienced customer service providers can find it difficult to stay detached and unaffected from emotionally charged or confrontational conversations.

This training has been designed to equip you with the skills and approaches to deal effectively with customer queries, while avoiding becoming personally affected by them.

This single day Dealing with Challenging Customer Conversations training is delivered by our expert trainers, who will take you through a ground-up approach. First, you will look deeper into the types and stages of conflict, challenging scenarios and stress, and the effect these can have on you. Next, you will have the opportunity to cement your learning through a practical workshop session.

What will I learn?

  • The stages of conflict
  • Styles and techniques available to approach conflict
  • How to deal with difficult situations
  • How to look after yourself and your customer
  • The route of stress and how it manifests
  • Practical 'adaptive' tools and techniques

Who should take this course?

This Dealing with Challenging Customer Conversations training is designed for anyone who faces emotionally challenging conversations. It is especially relevant for customer-facing staff, call operators and customer services staff. No previous training or experience is required to join this course.

This is a one-day course, that can be delivered in two half-day sessions. It is popular for the sessions to be delivered around two weeks apart. This reduces any service impact from too many staff being away from their positions at any one time.

Session 1 Course Content

  • Understanding and managing conflict
  • Stages of conflict
  • Style choices for managing conflict
  • Taking the heat out of calls
  • Dealing with difficult situations constructively and effectively
  • When to terminate calls
  • Helping or signposting
  • Expressing empathy within professional boundaries
  • How and when to pass-on calls
  • Avoiding ‘taking it home’
  • Threats of self-harm
  • Language barriers
  • Understanding stress
  • Managing stress
  • Recognising how stress manifests
  • Solutions to stress
  • Angry customers
  • Distressed customers
  • Customers in crisis
  • Vulnerable customers
  • Customers who refuse to accept authority/position
  • Effective listening tools and techniques
  • Acknowledging factual content, customer feelings and circumstances
  • Demonstrating listening and understanding
  • Managing our own emotions
  • Giving bad news
  • Aggressive vs assertive behaviour
  • Understanding verbal signs of conflict
  • Knowing when to apologise
  • Phrases to avoid
  • Agreeing next steps
  • Identifying further learning needs

Session 2 Course Content

  • Brief review of Session 1
  • Key points
  • Learning in practice on 'real' scenarios

Testimonial: Adur and Worthing Council

“Help us handle challenging customer conversations”

Adur and Worthing Council contact centre takes up to 1000 calls per day. Inevitably, some of these calls come from angry or distressed callers. The Council noticed a rise in the number of people who were articulating severe anxiety and depression – often from people in housing crisis or owing the Council money. This was placing a burden on staff who were trying to offer help, while maintain professional boundaries and resilience.

So the Council enrolled their team onto escalla’s Dealing with Challenging Customer Conversations training course – specifically designed to help teams effectively handle aggressive and vulnerable customers. Through practical adaptive tools and techniques, they looked at how to approach conflict, deal with difficult situations, reduce stress and look after themselves and their callers.

Since the training, Adur and Worthing Council contact centre management have noticed a shift in how their staff interact with customers. They’ve become more assertive, displaying empathy, but without ‘taking on’ the customers' problems.

“I got comments from almost all the team to say it was the best training they'd ever had - because the trainer made them feel safe to share difficulties, and suggested practical ways to tackle them.” - Caroline Squires, service manager at Adur and Worthing Council

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