Customer and end user complaints are a fact of life if you work on the help desk. They’re not limited, however, just to the help desk. All of us in IT at one time or another have to deal with complaints. Perhaps the complaints are from an end user or a customer, maybe they’re from a colleague, a vendor, or your boss. Regardless of who’s complaining, our ability to handle complaints effectively with grace and aplomb is a hallmark of our people skills and our emotional intelligence.

You can use the LOF acronym to remember the three phases for handling complaints:

  1. L is for Listen. During the listening phase, we use our best listening skills. We listen respectfully without finishing thoughts or sentences for the other person, we allow the person to vent, we ask open ended questions to gather information, we empathize and sincerely apologize. Be careful not to get defensive. We assume the person complaining has a valid point. (If it turns out later that the complaint was not valid, we can deal with it then. During the initial phase, let’s assume the person complaining is right.) After listening, we paraphrase what we heard to ensure we understand the complaint correctly.
  2. O is for Offer a solution. After listening and gaining agreement on the nature of the complaint, we offer a solution. Sometimes, a complete solution may require time and thought. In that case, we say so and offer a time frame for presenting the complete solution. If, on the other hand, we’re able to craft a complete solution on the spot, we offer it and gain agreement with the other person.
  3. F is for Follow up. The final phase of handling complaints and, in my experience, an often overlooked phase, is to follow up to ensure the solution is working. Perhaps you follow up later in the day, the next day, or several days later. That depends on the nature of the complaint and the solution. Regardless, you must follow up to ensure the complaint has been resolved and the solution is working. A quick phone call or email is all it takes. Try saying something like, “I’m following up on your complaint about the network printing problem. How is everything working now?”

Many people think of handling complaints as a difficult chore. There certainly are times when it’s very challenging and not at all fun. Many complaints can be handled pleasantly and effectively using the LOF principle of Listen, Offer a Solution, and Follow Up.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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