Business Management Consulting Services | Setting expectations

Business Mentoring Australia

Have you ever been on the phone with an irate customer, and no matter what you try, you seem to be going around in circles? 

You are not alone! We all have experienced a nightmare call, however, most complaints are completely avoidable. 

In 2017, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman recorded in December 2016, Telstra received 70,000 complaints which jumped up to 100,000 complaints in June 2017 (source). 

While most of us don't deal with complaints on our own, sometimes when you are on the call, you feel like you are. There is nothing more defeating than handing a call over to someone else, and not being able to provide the customer with a solution, or even worse, feeling angry.

How can you improve the customer's experience when they are complaining? 

Prevent the issue from ever happening!

That's not always the easiest thing to do! Especially when you are on the phone with them. The customer doesn't care about what you are going to do to prevent the issue from happening again to another customer. Instead, the most important thing you can do when you are in the moment is know how to prevent a complaint from escalating. 

How to prevent a complaint from escalating

Ok, so you are on the phone to a customer who already has a defensive tone the minute you introduce yourself, what can you do?

 Dealing with challenging customer's

Customers will be seeking a speedy response and resolution. When you are dealing with complaints you need to have a full understanding of your level of responsibility and authority to make decisions.

Being able to de-escalate a customer's frustration will depend on:

  1. Effective communication
  2. Commitment to a successful outcome
  3. Knowledge of organisational policies
  4. Ability to gain the customer's agreement
  5. Demonstrate commitment to customer satisfaction

Be easy to deal with, empathetic, effective and trustworthy

 Easy to deal with

  • Be approachable
  • Be willing to assist
  • Listen to the enquiry/request for service
  • Have a high level of product knowledge, or know who you can ask for help
  • Respond in a language that is easy to understand. Don't use jargon
  • Be personable 
  • Be proactive


  • Listen to the customer
  • Understand how the customer feels
  • Be attentive to the customer's wants and needs
  • Display positive body language (even if you are on the phone, the customer can sense your smile)
  • Ensure you have a positive/calm tone of voice
  • Have patience - allow the customer to express their issue/opinion
  • Don't interrupt


  • Be proactive, not reactive
  • Follow through with promises
  • Don't confuse the customer
  • Know your scope
  • Use the complaint as feedback to improve processes
  • Understand customers are complaining because they have lost something they value


  • Be consistent with quality and timely responses
  • Stick to deadlines and timelines
  • Achieve deliverables
  • Be honest and transparent

How to prevent a complaint from escalating

1. Ask open-ended questions

To clarify the exact nature of the enquiry/issue you need all the facts

2. Actively listen

Listen to the facts without assuming or making a judgment

3. Paraphrase what the customer says

Repeat back your understanding of what has been said to clarify

4. Empathise

Come in quickly with empathy e.g. "I understand your frustration"

5. Solve the problem

Present solutions

6. Thank them

Apologise on behalf of the organisation if appropriate e.g. "we apologise for any inconvenience you have experienced"

7. Escalate the call if needed

Don't try and help if you are unable to. There is nothing worse than wasting time speaking to people who cannot help you. Let them know in advance e.g "unfortunately I'm unable to further assist you, I'm going to transfer you to my supervisor to assist." When you do transfer them, make sure you tell your supervisor as much as the customer's complaint as you can, so the customer doesn't have to retell the story again.

Would you, or your staff members benefit from training on how to deal with difficult/ challenging customers?  

Business Mentoring Australia offers Business Management Consulting Services in dealing with difficult or challenging customers, setting customer expectations and increasing staff skills to manage customer feedback in a proactive manner. 

Simply enter your details below, or click here to book in a one, two or three-days Setting Customer Expectations & Dealing with Complaints Workshop