The technique we suggest to our clients for dealing with the irate customer is easily taught but not easily perfected. It involves listening, empathizing, accepting responsibility, and delivering on a remedy. We’ve taught literally thousands of Service Excellence training participants how to use this highly effective technique, but many employees have trouble executing it well.
When observing staff role-playing the technique in their small groups, there are reasons why it sometimes doesn’t work – the employee’s tone doesn’t sound sincerely empathetic. The employee makes no eye contact. The employee doesn’t ask questions about the specifics of the issue. Maybe the employee gets defensive.
But the biggest pitfall stems from the fact that most employees want to get out of these conversations fast. There are two typically reasons for this desire for speed: (1) Employees are uncomfortable dealing with angry customers, so they quickly want to remove themselves from the situation, and (2) Employees sincerely believe that quick resolution is what the customer wants – which typically is true.
The biggest pitfall is an employee’s lack of patience.
Whether the employee is trying to extricate themselves from the conversation or help the customer get that quick resolution, the most frequent drawback in taking those perspectives is that they try to navigate the conversation too quickly. They’re not patient. They talk fast. They don’t give the customer enough time to vent. They quickly go to a solution without learning the facts. They interrupt the customer. They say “I’m sorry” so early on and so quickly that the sincerity is lost. They try to end the conversation before they allow the customer to drop the emotions. They try to take control with speed rather than take control with well-worded questions.
Quick resolution is a noble goal, but the best way to get there involves listening, empathizing, and being patient enough to ask the right questions so you can present the right solution. Speeding to an end rarely ends well.
Summon all your patience when presented with a service recovery situation.