Last week we addressed keeping our personal sanity. This week, let’s discuss dealing with customer insanity. That may not be the best choice of words, but many customers are overreacting. In last week’s Tip, we discussed dealing with emotions of anxiety and nervousness from customers, but many customers are also quicker to frustration or anger.
I witnessed this last week when picking up dinner curbside at a restaurant. The employee was new (1 week on the job) and had never worked curbside before that day. The restaurant had just closed for inside serving, so this was the first purely takeout day. The staff had to be stressed. There were 4 cars, the 1 employee working curbside, other cars were arriving, and service was understandably slow.
I couldn’t hear much of what the other customers said to the employee, but the facial expressions and body language conveyed impatience, frustration, and a little anger. No empathy for the employee. No understanding for the restaurant that had probably laid off most of their workforce the prior day.
While we – in customer service – need to have empathy for customers, we can’t assume they’ll have the same for us. They may be triggered quickly, and they may be impatient and unload emotions on us. So, this is a good time to refresh on our LEAD technique to defuse the angry customer:
- Listen to the Customer – Let them vent; then start asking questions with options (such as a Yes/No variety or “Did it happen Tuesday or Wednesday?”) or seeking facts. Get them to think and respond objectively, factually.
- Empathize with Their Situation – Convey your understanding of their situation and feelings. “I can understand how this could be frustrating.”
- Accept Responsibility – Apologize if the company did something wrong such as “On behalf of the organization, I apologize.” If there’s really nothing to apologize for, at least say the magic words “I’m sorry,” even if all you’re doing is empathizing. Offer “I’m sorry you’re in that situation.” or “I’m sorry that it happened.”
- Deliver on the Remedy – Then, transition to a solution. “Let’s see what we can do about this for you.”
LEAD them away from anger to a solution.