Tomorrow morning I’m headed to Phoenix to deliver a workshop at the Salesforce Trailblazers for the Future Conference. I booked an extra night at the Arizona Biltmore just because I wanted some “me time” for relaxation and reading. I do this a lot, adding a day or two on to a business trip to chill, explore, and enjoy local restaurants. Do you take time just for you?
Before I wrap things up in my office today and prepare for tomorrow’s early flight, I’m sharing with you three things you can do to pre-empt an escalation with a customer. These tips will help you handle interactions in such a way that you significantly minimize the chance of a customer becoming so incensed that they feel they have to talk to a supervisor.
1. Reflect Your Brand Promise
One of my clients is a furniture protection plan company. A point of upset for a lot of their customers is when customers discover that the damage to their furniture is not covered under warranty. Customers get intensely agitated because they feel what they purchased is not the same thing as the service they are receiving. I encouraged agents in this company to reflect the brand promise in every interaction. I had them focus on explaining first what the protection plan did cover, and then by quickly going over a few of the many benefits of the plan.
Instead of merely telling the customer that their damage was not covered, I instructed agents to say something like,
“You have an excellent plan here. It covers such things as scratches and broken pieces. In this case, we do not cover discoloration of the leather, as fading is a natural occurrence that comes from body oils and usage. If anything else should come up, though, please give us a call, and we’ll be happy to look into things for you.”
Reflecting the brand promise, in this situation, is reminding the customer of the many benefits the protection plan does offer, and by serving customers with a friendly demeanor.
2. Don’t Push
I overheard one of my employees saying to an upset customer, “Sir, I work in our corporate office. I had nothing to do with the problem you’re talking about.”
She attempted to get the customer to calm down. But you know what? That didn’t calm the customer. Her words made the customer even more intense.
I pulled my employee aside, and I explained to her that she was escalating the situation with the very words she hoped would get the customer to back down.
The thing is, with de-escalation you have to take action in the present to move toward a calmer state, and toward a solution. You can’t fight fire with fire like my employee was trying to do, you have to be the water that puts the fire out.
De-escalation requires you do three things. You have to create calm with a customer who is agitated; you need to assertively take charge of the situation to pre-empt more intense emotion, and, you must move the interaction forward.
1. Create Calm
Do you find it difficult to get customers to accept your word as final? Like, do they just come back and ask their question another way. Or even better, do they ask to talk to your manager?
The thing is, we all need to get better at making our answer the final answer. It’s pretty easy to give a firm answer when you have the right approach.
Making your answer the final answer comes down to two things.
You must be assertive, and you must be direct. I talk about how to make your answer the definitive solution in the short video below.
In the video I made for you, I share an example one of my clients shared with me. He worked on the escalation team for a Timeshare company. He had to talk to customers who were ready to get rid of their timeshare for one reason or another but were told they couldn’t unload that mortgage because the contract was for life. It lived on even after the owner died.
I have a module dedicated to how to make your word the definitive answer in my De-escalation Online Course, which is part of my Customer Service eLearning suite. If you or your employees struggle at all with how to get challenging customers to back down, take a look at my De-escalation Training Course.
I share my client’s approach to getting his timeshare customers to accept his no as the final answer every single time. Hint: He did it by being assertive and direct. Watch my video to learn how to get your customers to accept your word as final.
So, again, if you or your employees struggle at all with how to get challenging customers to back down, take a look at my De-escalation Training Course.
If you find it difficult to get your customer to stop telling you the story of just how inconvenienced they were, or are, and to stop rambling on about the problem, it’s likely because the customer is stuck in the past.
You’re going to have to reframe the issue in the customer’s mind. That is, you must strategically move your customer out of a past problem to a focus on the present so that you can offer a solution. Your job, in essence, is to get the customer to move on.
Reframing statements are fantastic in getting the customer to move forward. Reframing does two things for you. First, it acknowledges your customer’s biggest concern. You empathize. Secondly, it ushers in the solution phase of problem resolution.
Here are seven reframing statements that recognize customer concern and help customers move on. Continue reading “7 Things You Can Say to Gain Control with Challenging Customers”
Four minutes into the call and I could see I was heading for trouble. The customer was a storyteller and a rambler. Plus, she was mad. She’d already spoken to an employee in the field and to one of my employees at the corporate office. Now the call had come to me. I got the call literally just as I was picking up my book to head to the park to enjoy a quick lunch and hopefully a couple of chapters of my novel.
The problem was easy enough. The customer’s rental car had broken down. That happens every day in the world of car rentals. Our solution to this problem is always swift: we get a replacement car out to the customer, reimburse any expenses and tow back the original rental.
But with this customer, the conversation was anything but easy. She kept rambling on, rehashing her frustration, making sure I knew how difficult it was to be stranded on the side of the interstate with 3 small children. If I was going to help the customer and have any shot at enjoying my lunch and a little reading, I had to resolve the problem and wrap up the call quickly.
So, here’s what I did. I used what Robert Bacal, a brilliant consultant, calls the topic-grab approach. The topic-grab approach involves listening carefully to your upset customer and then taking something they’ve said (grabbing a topic) and commenting on it or asking a question about it. This is especially effective if you can express empathy on the topic you “grab.” Continue reading “Do You Have Trouble De-escalating Angry Customers? If So, Try This.”