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Tips for Difficult Customers and Concluding the Interview or Settlement conference

In developing skills to use during interviews or settlement conference and how to end the meetings, keep these tips in mind.

“Difficult” Customers

Due to the nature of the Child Support Services business, CSS staff can expect to encounter the occasional angry or aggressive customer. A few guidelines to assist in the handling of such situations include:

  • Do not argue or become defensive. Try to think like the customer. Mentally empathize with their problem, and try to separate any negative behavior they may be exhibiting from the person themselves.
  • Express concern for the customer’s complaint, and suggest resolutions might be attainable if the facts could be calmly discussed. If the complaint is legitimate, make an attempt to resolve it. If it is not within OCSS’ power to resolve the problem, suggest some other avenue, if one is apparent.
  • Emphasize what can be done to solve this or some other problem, and, if possible, set a date to discuss those results.

The key to effective, confident interviewing is Practice. Make daily conversations with friends, family, and coworkers opportunities to practice listening skills.

Concluding the Meeting

Knowing how to conclude the meeting allows the Child Support Specialist to reiterate the CSS process, emphasize the importance of the customer’s role in that process, and end the interview/conference in a friendly manner.

These suggestions may assist the CSS staff member in bringing the interview or conference to a successful close:

  • Summarize what has been accomplished and clarify any confusing information.
  • Explain the CSS process so the customer might know what to expect.
  • Describe what the next steps will be, both for the Child Support Specialist, and in regard to any steps the customer may need to take (e.g., providing additional information, copies of divorce decrees, etc.) and set a date by which those things will be accomplished.
  • Never make promises to the customer that might not be realistic. This only leads to customer dissatisfaction.
  • Ask questions: If the Child Support Specialist is unsure of something the customer has said, this is the time to clarify the information. At the least, this will avoid extra phone contact and save time, and in some cases, may avoid embarrassment to the Child Support Specialist and the office.
  • Always ask “what further questions do you have?” This will insure the customer has one more opportunity to ask questions, and encourages him/her to do so. Notice the question is phrased as a probing “open” question, rather than the limiting closed question of “do you have any questions?” This last effort to assist the customer can alleviate follow‐up phone calls from the customer at a later time.