7 Secrets for Moving Customers Out of a Hardball Mentality

serious call centre rep

Here are 7 proven tips for moving customers out of a hardball mentality into a constructive dialogue.

  1. Confidently acknowledge and address anger.

    A big mistake among customer service professionals is to ignore a customer’s expression of anger or tip-toe around it. There is something known as the communication chain. When people communicate, they expect the person they are communicating with to respond or react…this response is a link in the communication chain. A failure to respond to communication leaves the communication chain unlinked…broken.For example, If I walk into my office and say… “Hello Sherry, how are you?” ….and she says absolutely nothing, she’s broken the communication chain. And that leaves me feeling awkward, perhaps embarrassed.If a customer expresses anger and we fail to respond to it, the communication chain is broken, and the customer feels like they are not getting through. The customer might become even angrier and more difficult, as they are resorting to whatever it takes to feel heard and understood.

    You can keep your angry customers from getting more upset by confidently acknowledging their anger and responding to it. You can respond to anger with a statement like, “Clearly you’re upset, and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” This statement directly and professionally addresses anger – without- making the customer even angrier. Now that the anger has been acknowledged, you have completed the communication chain.

  2. Allow the customer to vent, but don’t lose control.

    An Angry customer can be compared to an erupting volcano. When a volcano is erupting, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t speed up the eruption, you can’t put a lid on it, and you cannot direct or redirect it…It must erupt.When a customer is angry, they must experience and express their anger – and often this is done through venting. We should not interrupt an angry venting customer or tell them to “calm down.” This would be as futile as trying to tame a volcano. A volcano erupts and eventually subsides. Your angry customer will vent and eventually calm down.Always let angry customers vent. In most cases, your customer will only need to vent for fifteen to thirty-five seconds. Venting beyond 35 seconds can become ranting and cause you to lose control. After a few seconds of venting, you’ll want to jump back in and move the conversation forward constructively.

  3. Don’t react emotionally.

    It can be easy to lose our cool when a customer gets hot, but be warned: In most cases, showing frustration, impatience, or acting even mildly upset doesn’t help you move the customer out of a hardball mentality. Usually, losing our own cool does nothing but make the customer even more upset, or our attitude will make the customer even firmer in his original position.If you feel you’re beginning to lose your cool, don’t be afraid to hit the “pause” button. You hit the pause button by putting a customer on hold or telling the customer you will call them back.

  4. Heed Steven Covey’s Words…Understand, then be understood.

    In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven Covey tells a story of a patient going in for an eye exam. After briefly listening to the patient’s complaint, the doctor takes off his glasses and hands them to the patient and tells the patient to simply “take his glasses.”

    What are the chances you’d go back to a doctor that prescribes a solution without even diagnosing a problem? You don’t have much confidence in someone who doesn’t diagnose before they prescribe… But how often do we prescribe a solution before completely diagnosing the situation, in dealing with customers?Seek first to understand. Before you try to PRESCRIBE a solution for a customer’s problem before you quote policy or tell a customer what you cannot do, seek to actually understand the customer’s viewpoint. How has the problem impacted your customer? Has your customer lost money, time, respect, or confidence because of this issue? Does the customer feel embarrassed, wronged, discriminated against, or powerless? Try to really understand what your customer is experiencing and feeling. when you respond, communicate your full understanding of the problem from the customer’s perspective. Only then can you truly diagnose, BEFORE you prescribe a solution.

    Listening with the intent to understand gives you empathy for the customer and puts you in the position to solve the real issues. Once you really understand your customer, you naturally begin to communicate with empathy and to communicate more efficiently. Your customer, who feels understood, can now start to understand you.

  5. Don’t belabor your point…no matter how right you are.

    be•la•bor – [bi-ley-ber] – verb: (1) to assail persistently, as with scorn or ridicule (2) work at (something) repeatedly or more than is necessary: He kept belaboring the point long after we had agreed.If you really want to tick a customer off or incite an already upset customer, belabor your point. Repeat your point (your policy; your position) over and over again. I mean really badger the customer with your elementary explanation so that the customer feels they aren’t too bright.

    Customer service professionals all around the world make the mistake of belaboring a point when speaking with customers. Don’t let this happen to you. Only make your point once diplomatically and then enter into a constructive dialogue with your customer.

  6. Get the customer saying ‘yes,’ and if possible, keep them from saying ‘no.’

    When a person says “no,” all of their pride demands that they remain consistent with themselves. And it is very difficult, once they’ve said ‘no,’ for them to change their mind and become “agreeable” with you because their sense of pride is now involved. And we invest so much in our pride.Here’s how it works. Build an affirmative path by asking your customer two straightforward and obvious closed-ended questions that you know will result in a YES response. Once you do that, the customer will be on an affirmative path (with you), and it is far easier for them to agree with your next question. It’s very much psychological…Your customer won’t feel comfortable disagreeing with himself…and will feel compelled to say yes to your third question so that he agrees with himself!

  7. Have a graceful exit.

    When all else fails, you need a way to gracefully get out of a conversation with a difficult or unreasonable customer. Here’s an easy way to gracefully exit: “We see this differently, and I’m going to have to put thought into the perspective you have shared with me. I will visit with my supervisor about your concerns and call you back with a response.”

Continue reading “7 Secrets for Moving Customers Out of a Hardball Mentality”

Recognition Made Easy – 10 Low Cost Ways to Recognize and Reward Employees

Smiling receptionist 

There are two things people want more than sex and money…recognition and praise.

Mary Kay Ash

Mary Kay is right, as studies indicate that employees find personal recognition more motivational than money. A work climate filled with praise and recognition is a workplace where employees are positive, productive and motivated.

Recognizing and rewarding employees doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Perhaps the primary reason more managers don’t take the time to intentionally motivate employees is that they lack the time and creativity to come up with ideas.

After reading this week’s article you will have no excuses for not motivating your team, because I am giving you 10 low cost ways to recognize and reward your employees.

  1. Call an employee into your office just to thank him or her; don’t discuss any other issue.

  2. Give the employee a 2-hour lunch.

  3. Send a thank you note to a spouse thanking them for their support during the employee’s overtime.

  4. Hold a potluck lunch for your group. This is always so much fun for everyone!

  5. Write a letter of praise to employees recognizing their specific contributions and accomplishments.

  6. Send an email acknowledgement and copy your boss or higher manager.

  7. When paychecks go out, write a note on the envelope recognizing an employee’s accomplishment. (They’re sure not to miss this one!)

  8. Give gift cards. Food, movies, music, whatever!

  9. Provide an extra break. We can all do this, can’t we?

Continue reading “Recognition Made Easy – 10 Low Cost Ways to Recognize and Reward Employees”

How to Resolve Problems Without Giving the Store Away



This training video is from our Golden Method for Complaint Resolution online video course…

The Golden Method for Complaint Resolution Online Video Course
This multi-media online training program positions customer service representatives to regain control of difficult conversations and to regain customer goodwill after even the worst has happened. Full of specific tips to handle difficult customers, as well as tools to completely restore customer confidence in the wake of problems, the Golden Rules Training System guides customer service representatives as if Myra was right there with them.

This program includes 25 video modules with Myra Golden leading customer service representatives through field-tested and proven strategies for regaining control with angry and difficult customers.
View details.

Does Your Company Monitor Twitter, FaceBook and Blogs for Customer Complaints? If not, why not?


Last year I told you about a Comcast contract technician who fell asleep in a customer’s home while waiting on hold with the local Comcast office. Using a cell phone camera, the customer’s teenage son shot a video of the repairman sacked out on his couch and posted it on the Internet. The video received more than 1.3 million views on YouTube. The story was discussed on hundreds of blogs and Comcast’s reputation was irretrievably damaged.

Well, I’m back with an update on how Comcast is now impressively responding to complaints posted about their company on the Internet.

Comcast created the position of Digital Detective. I just love the sound of that! Comcast Digital Detectives scan social networking websites looking for ways to help customers who take issues to the web and by doing so, they are aggressively protecting brand credibility.

Here’s how Comcast Digital Detectives are saving the day for customers. Last year a Comcast customer experienced an outage with both her high-speed Internet and phone service. She says it took at least an hour and a half to get through to someone at Comcast and they told her it would be Thursday before a technician could come out. Frustrated, the customer logged on to Twitter from her Blackberry and typed “Damn Internet down in my house. Arrrrrgh. Can’t fix until Thursday. Shoot me.”

A Comcast Digital Detective saw the posting, tracked the customer down, and had the customer’s Internet and phone back up by 5pm that day. How’s that for a comeback? Comcast is surprising and delighting customers like this all day everyday simply by scanning social media for postings about their company.


What is Social Media?

Social media is any media generated by consumers. Its blogs, message boards, product review sites, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter…the list is ever evolving. Consumers often, but not always, use social media to post complaints about brands.

Companies today cannot sit on the bench when it comes to social media. If you’re serious about keeping your customers, you’re going to have to get involved. Here are 4 steps to get you started.

  1.  “Google” your company name. You need to know what’s being said about your company in the online media world. You’ll be amazed at what you can pull up. From Google you will find the blogs, message boards, product review sites, chat rooms. Google your company name with the word “sucks” behind it – and brace yourself because it may not be pretty.
  2. Perform a Tweetscan to find out what conversations are going on right now on Twitter about your brand. While you’re there, do a quick search on Comcast and Dell to see how proactive these companies are when it comes to getting involved in online conversations with consumers.
  3. Setup a  account TODAY. Don’t dismiss Twitter as social site just for young people. Smart companies are leveraging this free social networking community in a profound way. Comcast, under the username ‘ComcastCares”,  is reaching out to dozens of customers every week on Twitter. Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Kodak, and Dell are also proactively involved in conversations on Twitter. Not only are these companies fixing problems for customers, but they’re building relationships and keeping customers updated. Go to http://www.Twitter.Com to setup your account.
  4. Assign someone from your company the crucial responsibility of daily monitoring social media. This person will daily monitor Twitter, FaceBook, product review sites, message boards and blogs in general. This is often a good fit for Representatives who handle email or chat discussions for your company.  On the cutting edge, Southwest Airlines has a social media team that includes a Chief Twitter Officer. Additionally, Southwest has a person dedicated to fact-checking online and interacting with bloggers and another who takes charge of the company’s presence on sites such as YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn.

We are in an era of the powerful consumer. Consumers are taking matters into their own hands, taking a vengeance against companies for being unresponsive. These powerful consumers refuse to be ignored and in the process they are attracting enormous media attention, influencing consumer buying decisions, and causing significant market damage to companies.

You need to be right there when and where consumers vent their problems online so you can respond in an immediate and personal way. Adopt the 4 steps I presented here and you’ll be on the cutting edge of serving customers through the powerful social media.

Customer Disservice


by my friend Mike Figliuolo

“Thank you for calling XXXXXXX customer service. How may I provide you with excellent customer service today?”

I cringe when I hear those words. Especially before I’ve had my second cup of coffee (that’s the rule – no one is allowed to talk to me until I’ve finished that second cup. It’s ugly if that rule gets broken).

Finish article.

“Johnny the Bagger”

Here’s an  unforgettable true story that I’ve been sharing in some of my customer service workshops lately. 

It’s about a young man with Down Syndrome who changes the culture of a grocery store by being creative and giving the customers more than they expect. This story will grab your heart and get your creative juices flowing on ways to create “customer enthusiasm” in your organization. 

Enjoy the “Johnny the Bagger” video!