Taking complaint calls can actually be rewarding. With preparation and follow-through, you can create fierce loyalty and unwavering respect from people who were ready to tear you apart.
Whether your business is service or products, whether your organization is private or public, your reputation is on the line when you handle complaint calls.
If handled well, complaint calls provide companies and organizations valuable perspectives on how they come across to the public. Think of it as marketing research and public relations.
Make it easy for people to complain: Encourage people to call by posting phone numbers. You may even learn what you are doing right. Assign intelligent, articulate, pro-active people to field the calls and to follow up on them. Give executives and managers a turn to develop their sensitivity.
Brace yourself: Within seconds, you can tell what kind of call you have. First, position yourself for a positive encounter. Be ready to take notes. This will prepare you for focusing on content and solving problems, not taking things personally.
Honor callers: Address them respectfully; use their name; do not rush them; listen without interrupting. Encourage them with phrases like, "Go on," "I want to be sure to get this down." Focus on content. Your job is to gather information to create a solution and not judge the person.
Ask what the caller would like: Callers may propose simple, reasonable solutions. Then you can become partners in addressing complaints. Restate what you understand the problem is and how to address it. Then follow up.
About a year ago, an African-American student at the University of North Texas asked his advertising professor: "Where are the blacks?"
The student couldn't find any in the course's textbooks.
The professor, Roy Busby, set out to provide some answers.
The result is a preliminary curriculum research project called "Role Models," which has identified a sampling of 100 leading African-Americans, Hispanics and women in the advertising industry nationwide. The research also produced a compilation of about 75 minority agencies.
Mr. Busby hopes by the spring semester to offer the materials, at a nominal production charge, to universities across the country.
"Every school should have something like this," said Richard Wells, chairman of UNT's Journalism Department.
He said students in general, and minority students in particular, have limited views of career opportunities in communications.