When to Interrupt People Who are Complaining

By Bernie on 25 Oct 2012

complaining complaining complaining
Flickr User Gianna Borgnine

This article is not just about When to Interrupt People Who are Complaining, but also How to interrupt people who are complaining.

First let's cover the WHEN. I mail out a dozen or so packages every day or so and I like to prepay online so I don't have to wait at the Post Office. I also use flat rate boxes because it allows me to mail packages for as low as $5.35 regardless of destination or of weight, up to 70 lbs. (but see note 1 below)

With prepaid packages you don't have to wait for the clerks to weigh or calculate destinations, simply drop the packages off at a special window. However, yesterday this woman was complaining that she was given the wrong information from a post office customer service rep. On her third time saying, "But I was told it would only cost $5.15 to mail this box." I decided I had to interrupt her otherwise she would be repeating the same thing for hours. That's when one should interrupt an annoying person who is complaining - on the third whine.

This is how: I said, "Mam, I believe they meant this size box..." and I showed her one of my small flat rate boxes. As I was showing her the box, I handed the rest of my packages to the clerk who looked quite appreciative of my intrusion into the matter.

That is to say, when someone is complaining at a counter while you are waiting to be served and they are going on and on about some trivial matter, it is important to distract them by intruding into the conversation in some way while you finagle to get your business done.

Businesses Should Have a Third-Repetition of a Complaint Rule

It's not a pleasant thing to do, butting into someone else's problems, but the truth is, if someone is on the third repetition of a complaint and the salesperson or customer rep hasn't solved her problem, then it's not going to get solved. I wish stores, the post office, banks, all had a three-repeat rule. If the customer is on the third whine then a salesperson should be instructed that helping this person is pointless, to tell the customer that if she will kindly step aside a supervisor is coming down to help her, and to help the next person in line.

When I ran a customer service operation, I had a two minute rule. If the rep couldn't help the customer in two minutes an alarm would sound and the conversation was cut off and the customer was told that she was being transferred to a higher level representative. If the next rep couldn't solve the problem in two minutes, then the customer was told that her problem was too unusual for our department and that the complaint was written down and we would get back to her in 24 hours.

A team would then look at the problem to figure out why it took more than two minutes to fix. Sometimes the problem was something that we did not have a script for, and so after a while, we had fewer and fewer unresolved two-minute sessions.

The time limit for customer service calls depends on the nature of the business, but all businesses should have one. Also, in this manner, would can discover that certain reps have an unusually high number of calls that have not solved a customer's problem; and so those reps can be retrained or fired.

By the way, I also ran a telephone sales team the same way. If a salesman could not register a sale within two minutes the call was transferred to another salesman. I have no patience with dawdlers or incompetent salesmen or service reps.

This particular rant, "People who complain too long at a counter and don't know that the service rep can't help them solve their problem." should have been in my article of 25 Things that tick me off.

Note 1:

Only the larger flat rate boxes may contain up to 70 pounds of stuff - one cannot fit more than 62 pounds of anything, even the most dense element, Iridium (11.849 troy ounces per cubic inch), into the small flat rate box (8 5/8" x 5 3/8" x 1 5/8"). Just FYI if you ever need to send out a million dollars worth of Iridium.

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