De-escalate Your Most Demanding and Challenging Customers In 3 Steps


In a few weeks, I’ll be delivering my popular 3-Step De-escalation Workshop at Customer Contact Week in Las Vegas. Attendees in my session will learn precisely how to de-escalate with extremely challenging customers. If you’re in the Las Vegas area on June 21, check out my course and please say hello to me before or after the workshop.

Today I’m giving you a preview of the three steps I’ll be sharing in-depth at the Customer Contact Week Conference. My de-escalation steps are Respond, Reframe, and Resolve.

Step 1: Respond

It’s not okay to tip-toe around anger, or merely ignore the customer’s frustration. Silent treatments like these only make the customer more intense. Your aim is to defuse emotion and steer the interaction into constructive dialogue. So, the first thing you have to do in your de-escalation strategy is respond to the customer’s feelings. Speak to biggest concern your customer is expressing. This concern might be anger, frustration, or fear that nothing will/can be done to fix their problem, etc.

Here are some ways you can respond to concern:

“I can see your point on that.”
“I realize this has been frustrating for you.”
“I understand and will do my best to take care of this for you.”
“We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”

Make sure you respond to concern, not just in phone interactions, but also in chat, emails, texts, and social media. It works the same way as it does on the telephone.

Step 2: Reframe

After you’ve successfully responded to the customer’s concern, you’ll notice the customer calming down considerably. The calm is a direct result of the customer feeling heard and understood. You are now in control of the interaction. To maintain control, you must immediately reframe the conversation. You’re going to move the customer out of the past situation that caused the problem and into a focus on fixing the issue.

Here are some excellent reframing statements:

“I can see your point on that.”

“I realize this has been frustrating for you.”

“I understand and will do my best to take care of this for you.”

“We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”

Another way to reframe with your customer is to use the three steps popularized by CEOs, law-enforcement officials, and politicians. These easy-to-execute steps are:

Here’s what we know
Here’s what we’ve done
Here’s what’s next

Just tell your customer what you know about the issue they’re experiencing, explain what you’re already done (If anything has been done), and then tell them what’s next. This three-step method works because it positions you as confident and transparent.

Step 3: Resolve

When you genuinely respond to the customer’s concern and effectively reframe the problem, you’ll glide right into the final step, which is to resolve.

Resolving the problem is either a resolution to the customer’s issue, or it’s an explanation of what happens next, or perhaps you explain why you cannot honor the customer’s request.

I find that some of my clients struggle with what to say when they can’t give customers exactly what they want. Here are some phrases I’ve come up with to help in these situations.

“It is our company policy that we cannot pay a claim that involves consumer error. We have a responsibility to the company to uphold the integrity of our products. When a product performs as expected and has no deficiencies, we cannot take responsibility and accordingly can offer no financial assistance.”

“Although you might not agree with my decision, I’d like to explain it so you can at least understand.”

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions/did not read instructions/misused the product.”

Thank you for taking a look at my three step de-escalation strategy. My three steps will help you assertively take charge of interactions and move the customer forward. I hope you’re walking away with real ideas that will help you feel confident and in control when you work with challenging customers.
For more phrases, you can use when taking control of demanding customers and for more video tips, sign up for my online training, which provides intense training on De-escalation and other important topics.