George Costanza – from the Seinfeld television sitcom – broke up with someone he was dating and told her “It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s a famous line, and I’ve heard it used many times in humor, but I have a customer service twist on that comedic line.
It’s not you, it’s them.
If you’ve worked in a customer service role long enough, and by long enough I mean even just 3-6 months, you have probably dealt with the same complaint but in two totally different situations. You could have Fred the customer walk into a store or call you on the phone, and there is a problem with his account. He calmly describes the issue, and you deliver great service and work with him on a solution.
At some other point in time, Matt is the one who walks in; he’s the one who gets you on the phone. Unfortunately, he has the exact same complaint about his account. But instead of calmly describing the issue and working with you, he is ranting and raving! He is blaming everyone under the stars, particularly you. His tone is inflamed, and before you can even try to help him, you have to figure out how to calm him down and get the information you need to provide the support.
These are two different customers presenting the exact same issue. One comes in calm, looking for resolution, and the other comes in like a raving lunatic.
Their negative emotion is not about you; it’s about them. Even if the negative emotion is directed at you, it is about them. Even if some of the pointed words are toward you, it is about them.
I’m not saying that the highly emotional complaining customers don’t have a right to complain. Sure they do. I’m not saying that the company is absolved of any responsibility for issues they cause. Of course the company is responsible.
But what I am saying is that it’s much easier for us to handle these situations if we can handle our emotions…if we don’t get defensive…if we don’t take things so personally. And one way we can do that is to realize that we have had customers with the same issue before who have been calm, have been rational, who have looked to work with us to a resolution.
And if we realize we have been blessed with these collaborative customers, then we can also realize that if somebody comes in with the same issue in a totally off-the-wall manner, their emotion is not our fault.
We should try to do whatever we can to help them and move the conversation forward and resolve the issue, and one of the best ways we can do that is to realize that the emotion is not about us. It’s about them.
It’s Not You, It’s Them.