Whenever we discuss customer service, the subject of the irate customer arises. Some actually refer to the person as “the Customer from Hell.” You will recognize the person immediately by their tone of voice, their words, and their body language. They have built up a good head of steam.
Wait a minute! If the customer is in Hell, quite likely someone or something in your company drove them there. This interaction is your opportunity to rescue them from Hell, alive and appreciative, if at all possible.
When confronted with a customer who is demonstrating emotion you must give them the opportunity to work through the emotion before you can start problem solving. Searching for a solution before the emotion is addressed can allow the emotion to remain and fester.
Address the emotion, without emphasizing it. You might say, “I can hear your frustration,” but not, “You sound angry enough to kill someone.” Why give them ideas?
Invite them to tell you what is happening. Say something like, “Could you please tell me exactly what happened?”
Validate what they are feeling. “The delivery arrived too late for the party? No wonder you were frustrated.” Or, “I’d feel that way, too.”
Actively Listen to them. If you are face to face, make eye contact, nod encouragingly. If you are on the phone, say that you understand, or make sounds of empathy. This assures the customer that you are engaged, and have not put the phone down and walked away. It may be appropriate to let the customer know you are taking notes.
Withhold Your Own Emotion. The customer has enough emotion for both of you. You are not to emote, not to defend (or blaspheme) a coworker or company policy. If you feel you are being verbally attacked, set that aside for the moment. One of you needs to be analytical and dispassionate, and that’s you.
Nonjudgmentally Rephrase what you heard as opportunity presents. “Sounds as though” or perhaps, “If I heard you correctly…”
Partner toward Possible Solutions: Once the emotion has been addressed, and only then, you can begin to work with your customer on a mutually satisfactory solution. That is how you get rid of the customer from Hell~~by respectfully leading them out of Hell and back to the world of working partnerships.
Author: Jeannie Newman
Jeannie Newman is a speaker and coach, specializing in all aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Contact her for guided discussions, workshops, and seminars that feature theory and practical application on staff retention, customer retention, and related topics. She works with individuals, agencies, organizations, and corporations. She can be found at JZNAssociates.com, LinkedIn, or 860.794.4109.