2020 has been a trying year. Everyone is worn out and patience is running thin. With e-commerce experts projecting a ‘Shippageddon’ over the holiday season, it’s more important than ever that CX teams are equipped to handle hard conversations.

In today’s episode, we’ll give you our take on how to respond when a customer asks for support in a channel that you don’t provide — in this case, by phone. 

Watch the video and continue reading the post below for our three-step formula to help your customers feel heard, more in control, and more willing to work towards a resolution with you. 

How to tell a customer you don’t provide support by phone

We get versions of this question a lot: 

“Our company doesn't offer phone support in every case. When our customers ask for help by phone, we struggle to focus them on solving the problem via email or chat. How do we handle this?”

There are any number of reasons why you may decide not to offer phone support. You might reserve support calls for specific issues. Your agents may be working from home during the pandemic, and while their pets/furry friends are celebrating the spoils, customer calls just aren’t feasible, whether for privacy or technical reasons. Or, maybe you’re winding down your voice support services and going 100% digital.

Regardless, some customers will still want to talk — especially when they’re frustrated or upset. And in the midst of all the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many customers are more fired up than ever. So how do you say no to a customer when they ask for phone support?

Let’s look at a real-world example:

Customer

I just discovered some fraudulent activity on my account that I want dealt with right away. I need a call with you asap!

A typical company response:

Agent

As of this moment, the concerns we handle through phone calls are only for safety issues, but our full team of experts is available by email to assist you.

Is your blood pressure starting to rise? The worst thing to lead with when delivering bad news is… the bad news. When we feel shocked or confronted by something we weren’t expecting, we often react with anger. What you’re telling your customer here is that their problem isn’t worthy of phone support. And that’s going to make them super frustrated. Even if it’s true, there’s a better way to say it.

Try this 3-step formula instead. We’ve built it into our live-coaching software and find it works really well (if you like acronyms, remember “Triple A”):

  1. Acknowledge your customer’s feelings.
    This first step is critical and it’s often missed.

  2. Apologize and say no.
    Apologies work best when they’re followed by an ‘action statement’.

  3. Offer an Alternative.
    Focus on what you can offer, not what you can’t. This conveys that your customer has options, which opens, rather than closes, a conversation.

Lastly, avoid complex or formal language you wouldn’t use in life. If your friend said, “Hey, I’m really upset and need you to call me right now!’, would you respond with: “As of this moment, I do call some friends back, but I can’t offer you a call”? The way you talk to your customers should be no different than the way you talk to the people in your life that you care about.