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How To Best Improve Communication Skills With Communication Training, Improving & Handling Customer Complaints

Updated on June 12, 2011

This is a communication training article. It should be used in conjunction with the other two in the series to best gain from this experience. Here we focus on how to improve communication skills when dealing with customers, particularly handling customer complaints.

This is a transferable skill in that what is learned can be used elsewhere in all walks of life. Handling customer complaints when they are angry is a skill. It is about easing the situation so as you are empowered to resolve the complaint satisfactorily and effectively. During this article, we shall refer to an experience with an angry customer. This should help with your learning.

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How To Improve Communication Involves Understanding What Communication Is.

Before we start, what is communication? In the article 'How To Improve Communication:: Communication Training:: What Is Communication?' we discuss this in depth. In brief, it is about many facets of communication. It, therefore, involves:

  • Interpersonal communications with our fellow human beings.
  • It can be verbal or non-verbal
  • Consists of form, content and function
  • Influences on communication has a two way affect. Responses are dependent on the roles of the communicators, personal meanings from our understandings and labels that we attach to others. The outcomes can all stem from how we view the world and others.

In learning how to improve communication skills, we need to understand what we are dealing with. Understanding communication can help us to work effectively, especially with issues to do with customer complaints.

If you have not read this article on How To Improve Communication:: Communication Training:: What Is Communication, it might be a good idea to read it now.

Customers Need To Feel Understood And Valued

Customers need to feel understood and valued. Non-verbal cues can give an indication as to the level of interest that the customer service advisor may have or not on his or her query. So be aware of how you present yourself.

Remember that even 'silences' are forms of communication, so when dealing with a customer on the phone, for example, the subtle breathing sound and 'out of sync' replies can give the caller an indication of whether there is a valuable interest going on.

There is one thing to elevate angry behaviour. This is when customers do not feel like they are being listened to! This is common sense, really. Just think how you would feel if you had an issue about a service or product that had let you down. You wouldn't be happy in the first instance, then to feel that there was no concern or bother from the one person you hoped would help, would make you angry.

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Actions With Non Verbal Communications Can Tell Others You Are Serious About What They Have To Say

This is also very important when face to face with a customer's complaint. Non-verbal cues is how you present yourself. Keep good eye contact, nod at appropriate times during the aggrievement, be attentive and when you have the opportunity to speak, during fleeting breaks in the conversation, make it short and sweet.

Try to be empowering and polite. A small stroke on the arm, when appropriate, can help break the emotional state. Even suggesting somewhere to sit, quietly, might bring in some breathing space in order to touch baseline with the customer concerned.

Action with non verbal communication, therefore, can send signals that you are serious about the customer and the complaint they are making. When people feel they are taken seriously, they are much more likely to calm down and explain their complaint in a logical, methodical manner.

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Communication Tip To Help Improve Communication

The paper and pen excuse:

Non-Verbal: Start scribbling down the customer's concern on some paper. They will see the action and will show that the customer advisor is serious in what the customer is trying to say.

Verbal: 'Excuse me, let me just get a pen and make some notes. I want to get your complaint right.'

The customer will see that the advisor is serious in their complaint and the break will help them reflect, calm down and have develop faith in the service.

Exercise: How To Stop Verbal Abuse From An Angry Customer - An Exercise

In the article, 'How To Stop Verbal Abuse From An Angry Customer', the responder did nothing. She waited for the anger to disapait. She didn't respond at all. Maybe the irate customer felt that her message wasn't getting through and felt frustrated with the lack of response. Perhaps this added fuel to her anger. The responder may have appeared like stone to her abuse. How do you think this should have been handled? Please click here and read this account. Write down your thoughts and, why not help others with their development, by commenting at the end of the article?

If you want to learn how to improve your communication skills it is important that you analyse the dynamics in the above article.

Courtesy of josh.liba of Flickr
Courtesy of josh.liba of Flickr

It Is All About You, You Are In Control Of The Situation

This is about you. You are the one in control because you are responding in a way that dispells anger and this type of emotion burns out sooner or later. Anger doesn't last forever, does it? If you act as if you care about what people say, they normally calm down and are able to explain themselves more fully.

When customers are angry, they aren't angry at you. They are angry at the experience. Generally, speaking, they have been through some sort of a journey to have come to you. They have had time to reflect and feel that they have been agrieved in some way.

Verbal communication can come across in a confusing way when there is emotion attached. Remember, you have the control. Your customer is raging with hormones. These confuse the brain. The customer is not their usual self.

When people are in this chaotic emotional state, they need time for the hormones to stabilise. When they are more rational, this will enable a positive outcome. Customer advisors must be sincere, make a plan and stick to it. This is a chance for you to turn it around. You have the control and the power to make things right.

In order to improve communication skills, we need to be aware of our non-verbal ques, understanding other's point of view and that we are in control of our responses. In our control we can keep a situation manageable.

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Watching Bad Communication

In the below clip, you will notice how unfriendly and ingenuine the receptionist is. I know this is comedy, but you can learn lots about bad communication by looking at the wrong way to do it.

We find this funny, I may add, because we have seen subtler examples of this when we have approached customer service advisers in the past. Just remember that we need to present ourselves in a welcoming manner and do our best to please.

Look out for:

  • Verbal and Non-verbal Communication
  • The form, content and function of the communication
  • The influences on the communication
  • The receptionist role, labelling and personal meanings from that communication.

Helpful Receptionist? **Excuse The F Word at the End**

Communication has Complexities - We Need To Understand These To Improve Communication Skills.

In handling customer complaints, we need to utilise our communication skills effectively. How do we do that? Again, this is not only about non-verbal communication, but also verbal. We need to be aware of what we say, the way we say it and how we present ourselves in doing this.

It is no good in saying the right thing if you are not sincere in what you say. The lack of genuinity shines through. Again, it is all about you. It is you who are responsible for your behaviour and if you want to keep your head, whilst others are losing there's, then let your head rule your emotions.

Going back to 'what is communication?', we need to remind ourselves that we all live in our own realities. Everything we interpret has personal meaning. We have to respect that others might not see things in the same way. In order to express ourselves clearly, we need to think about the function of what we want to achieve. When considering customer complaints, the function of communication is to resolve an issue effectively and well. This is the objective.

The content of what we want to express has to be presented in a manner for which the customer needs to understand. For example, unlike the video to the side of this article, we need to be polite by saying something like, 'I am very sorry, Sir, but the computer is not allowing me to be able to do this task at the moment. Now let me see if we have other options'. We need to be genuine and approachable. Take a look at this clip to see how not to do it!

So how is the 'form' of communication? How do we deliver it? Is it verbal, non-verbal or written? Maybe it is all these? Form, therefore, has to be established and communicated to the customer. Form is also about reaffirming the content of the complaint and putting it into a manageable context.

So in handling customer complaints, communication has its complexities. We need to understand these if we want to improve communication skills.

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How To Improve Communication Skills Summary

The Little Britain clip shows us how important it is to have an approachable, genuine manner. We need to focus on what we say, how we say it and how we present it. We are in control of communication because if we start with the self, the rest will naturally follow. We need to be understanding in an attempt to calm stressful situations down so as we can start to ascertain what the problem is with the customer who has the complaint. As said, it is all about you! You controlling the communication so as you can help resolve situations.

In this article, therefore, we have examined ways of how we can improve communication skills by learning from examples, understanding perspectives and finding ways that we can gain control in situations that may be difficult. Through learning about the importance of good communication from bad communication we can protect ourselves from emotional hurt when handling customer complaints and find practices that can lead to positive outcomes. This means happy customers and a company reputation kept in tact. I hope you have enjoyed these communication training articles and that you have learned a lot about the positives of effective communication.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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Here Are Some Tips In Handling Customer Complaints

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    • Shauntforever profile image


      6 years ago from San Bernardino, CA

      Exactly. This lovely double-sided personality is what I call the "switch." Many don't know how to use it. It takes great skill to control those nerves.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Billy... It adds an additional dimension to the article *wink*. Really glad that you managed to make it down here! Well done for your valuable contribution :)

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Another very helpful hub - I tried answering the exercise above for you. I didn't realize their were comments down here :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      moncrieff - this is one of the best ways to make people feel valued - lucky agents! *wink*

    • moncrieff profile image


      8 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks for good tips. A great customer service agent is hard to find. This inspired me to bring the best cakes in town and tea for my agents tomorrow, for free.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Cupid - Thanks for reading, I hope you gained something from it:)

    • cupid51 profile image


      8 years ago from INDIA

      Very nice and informative hub, I enjoyed it. Thanks for the presentation!

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Rafini... that was the hub which was part of the exercise. It was the angry customer anaylisis.

      The slight touch is a reasurring, disarming one (! sorry!), and should only be used when the appropriate. Nurses and social workers use it when the client is calm and they want to win them over. It is an expression of 'I care'. It is a very dodgy one, unless you are 100% sure - they might be in tears for example, not elevated, just upset.

      I worked in customer services, for example, for NTL. There was a customer who was upset - a loved one had died and the company had sent letters in his name, etc. It was a sensitive issue. I took her to a seat, just before, touched her arm and said 'come on, lets sit down and talk about it, let me see what I can do'. In that instance it was appropriate. Do you get my meaning?

      I looooove your comments Rafini... you are thoughtful and anaylitical. Great one mate!

    • Rafini profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      shazwellyn - thanks for showing me how my previous manager wasn't a very good manager! lol

      For complaints, she did everything she shouldn't have done. She'd argue back, ignore, do something else or talk with someone else, sometimes she'd even answer a phone call. Then, when the customers anger elevated, she'd kick them out of the store, threaten to call the police, or ban them from the store by contacting her boss & saying the customer was too violent and she was concerned for her safety.

      I like the pen and paper idea to write down complaints - keeps your focus on the complaint rather than the anger.

      Sometimes an angry customer refuses to accept your assistance and goes to the big boss. I've had this happen.

      I would have thought Customer Service was a no-touch zone...unless you meant to stroke your own arm. I'm just not sure how that would work, I guess.

      Thanks for the thoughtful hub. :D

      (I seem to have missed one of your communication hubs...)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Tony - great you made it to the bottom of the article! :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I enjoyed this write up. Thanks for it.

      Love and peace



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