What a Gangsta Punch from a Kmart Customer Taught Me About Difficult Customers

Gangster Punch

My first job was at Kmart. I was 16. It was at Kmart that I learned that customers could be difficult. Customers could get so upset they’d cuss, make threats, and demand to speak to a manger.

It was at Kmart that I learned how not to handle a difficult customer. This lesson came through the courtesy of my friend, Beverly Johnson. One Thursday evening, Beverly, just 17, was put in charge because management in our area was gone for the day.

I joined Beverly on a price-check at the Service Desk. When we got to about 20 feet away from the Service Desk, Beverly and I looked at each other and without saying a word, our eyes communicated, “Oh shit.” We saw one of our notoriously difficult customers.

The customer was Nancy. She was known to return large numbers of items, usually clothing. She’d have her kids (all 5 of them) wear the clothes until they literally wore out. Then, she’d return the clothing. She always had a receipt, and she knew that anything could be returned anytime for an in-store credit. If you dare challenge Nancy, she’d raise her voice, get her dramatic hand gestures going and then, demand to see the store manager. Tonight, Beverly was the “manager.”

We approached the desk, and the first thing Beverly said was, “We’re not taking that junk back!”

“Excuse me?” Nancy was genuinely shocked. No, this little girl didn’t just tell me I cannot return these items! is what I imagined she was thinking.

Beverly, serious as a heart attack, said again, “We’re not taking that junk back.”

“Little B$#&@, yes you will!” No, she didn’t! Even for Nancy, this was extreme. Continue reading

3 Expert Tips to Pre-empt an Escalation with a Customer

Women with headsets working at a call center

I remember being a new manager preparing to deliver bad news to a group of executives. I was nervous, fearing I would get questions I couldn’t answer and thinking I’d get slammed in the meeting. My boss, the executive vice president of the company, helped me prepare for the meeting.

“Here’s the strategy you use. You go in there and answer their every question, before they even have a chance to ask you anything. This is what politicians, CEOs, and law enforcement officers do in every high-pressure press conference.” And then he walked me through the 3 steps that politicians and CEOs use. We even sat there and role-played in his office.

Three weeks later, I delivered the dim news to a group of 68 executives, all men. And it went well. To my shock and relief, there were no flaring tempers and no questions I couldn’t easily handle. There were very few questions. Using the 3 steps my boss had shared with me, I was able to pre-empt an escalation. Thank God!

Thrilled with the results I got in that meeting, I shared the 3 steps with my employees who worked in customer care. I thought the steps could help them pre-empt escalations with our difficult customers, and they did!

In this article, I’m going to share with you the 3 steps politicians and CEOs use to pre-empt an escalation—the same 3 steps my employees used to successfully pre-empt escalations to supervisors and to pre-empt escalations in aggression. Using these steps, you’ll be able to create calm, prevent an escalation, and be in complete control with difficult customers.

Here are the 3 steps:

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How Long Will It Take You to Talk to Us About Soft Skills Training?

Yesterday I delivered a full-day of soft skills training to a new client in Denver. We had such a fun day. Lots of participation, solid take-aways, table discussions that I know were behavior changing. I love the feeling I get after a day of soft skills training.

Have you ever checked out my onsite training workshops?

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• Workshop attendees have said, Myra’s positive attitude really makes me feel that one person can completely change another’s state of being and “Each one of us walked away with something new, and all of us feel we could have sat and listened to her for days!

• Training is customized to your needs. I meet with your management team before the training to discuss your objectives and I review a sample of your agent calls to help me understand where you are today.

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Just after a Customization video conference with a new client

• I’m known for my high engagement, stories and humor – your people will love spending the day with me and my team in soft skills training!

Here’s what a recent client had to say about my training:

Myra delivered two full-day workshops for us, and we could not be more pleased.  She took the time to listen to our needs and created workshops that combined her expert knowledge with the specific customer-service ethos we want ingrained in our employees.   Continue reading

The 3 Mistakes Most People Make When Giving Customers Bad News

shocked customer service representative

My husband and I were sitting at the big boardroom table at the Closing office. We’d just sold our first home. We were now closing on our new home. But, something went wrong. The bank didn’t transfer the money for the purchase of our new home. 

I called our mortgage broker, who had handled every detail up to this point. I got the Office Manager.“You’re approved. I don’t know why the money wasn’t transferred. It’s now after hours on the East Coast on a holiday weekend.” It was New Year’s eve. “We can’t talk to anybody until after the first of the year.”

Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt right then. I was in all-out panic mode. I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to move into our home. I asked to speak to my Broker, and the Office Manager said, “He’s just going to tell you the same thing I’ve told you. Like I said, there’s nothing we can do until after the first of the year.”  

There was no explanation; no concern for this very serious problem, no offer to help – nothing. She just said what she said. And we were left helpless.

This is a good example of how not to deliver bad news to a customer. By the way, after the first of the year, we learned that the bank account number for the wire transfer was incorrect. It was one number off. That’s all it was. And we were able to move into our new home. But not after a long holiday weekend of complete fear!

Things will go wrong and there will be times when there is nothing you can do to help the customer. You can’t control the fact that you have to be the bearer of bad news, but you can control how you deliver the news.

My former mortgage broker got it wrong, as a lot of people do. Here’s how most people get it wrong when they deliver bad news to a customer: Continue reading

That Time I Set My Kitchen On Fire – And How That Changed Me Forever

Myra Golden

I was making a special candy dessert with my daughter, just 4 years old at the time. I didn’t even want to make the recipe, but Lauren begged me to. Given my frustration in the kitchen with this unfamiliar and difficult recipe, it’s no surprise that my daughter quickly lost interest in cooking with mommy and went to play.

Impatient with a lengthy step in the cooking process, I decided to let the mixture simmer for a bit, thinking my frustration could also simmer down, and I went down the hall to my home office. I got to checking emails and a voicemail, nothing of importance, and I simply forgot about the sweet mixture simmering on the stovetop. Sometime later at my desk I heard a sharp whistle. No, it was more like a beep. It happened in rapid succession. With a 4-year old and a 1 year old, I dismissed the sound as something coming from one of the kids’ toys. I hit send on the email I was typing and then opened AOL to read some news.

My daughter walked into my office, still wearing her lavender princess dress and bejeweled crown from dressup earlier.  She didn’t look like a princess though. She looked Much Afraid. “What’s wrong Lauren?” Her big princess eyes didn’t blink. She didn’t speak. There’s that beeping noise again… Oh ho! That’s the smoke alarm, I realized. I ran into the hall and it was filled with smoke! Through the smoke I dashed to my kitchen and it was on fire. My kitchen was on fire! Continue reading

3 Ideas to Help Customer Service Employees Work Through Burnout

Stressful day at work

The twentieth of May marks 16 years that I’ve been in business for myself, doing the things I’ve dreamt about, the things I love – training, writing, designing curriculum. I love where I am and what I do; yet recently I have experienced burnout.

Guilt was my first response to burnout. How dare I feel bored, dis-interested and un-creative. So many people would be happy to be where I am; I should be grateful. I’m my own boss. A typical workday for me includes dining at a highly recommended local restaurant, perhaps a walking tour of a historic city in the south, shopping for shoes in Toronto’s fashion district or meeting beautiful spirited Native Americans in Milbank, South Dakota. All this is after a well-received training session or keynote.

I am grateful, actually, and yet, I was experiencing burnout. I wonder if your employees have ever been where I am just now emerging from – the brink of burnout. Maybe you, too, have felt un-motivated at work. I’ve addressed, really still addressing, my burnout by doing 3 things. These 3 things, I believe, can help your employees (or you), out of a rut when they feel burned out or simply un-motivated.

1. Don’t allow customer service employees to spend more than 80% of their time on the phones

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I’d given that keynote everything. I took the time to speak with 3 audience members weeks before my talk to get a feel for what would be value-adding for attendees. Months before my talk I interviewed 2 experts in the field so that I could provide field-tested and proven strategies in my key points. I was prayed up.

On the big day my keynote was good, but it was not great. I know great. I can see great in the eyes of my audience. I can feel it. I didn’t make emotional connection. Maybe I didn’t establish my credibility right up front. Was this African American woman with edgy, kinky hair just too much for this all-white, all male audience? Continue reading