You already know it’s best to not say words like “Unfortunately,” or a hard “no,” and you probably even know that you need to let angry customers vent for at least a few seconds, but there are some other things you should know before trying to get customers to accept your word as final, especially when you have to give customers bad news. I’m sharing three tactics from my handling demanding customers workshops to help you assertively (and politely) control challenging interactions with customers.
1. Don’t undermine your authority by mentioning “your supervisor.”
I had an employee who, when trying to assert her authority with challenging customers, would say things like, “Only a supervisor can make a decision for that amount,” “That’s over my head,” or “If I can’t help you, I’m happy to let you talk to my supervisor.”
What my employee was doing, certainly without realizing it, was priming customers to escalate up to a supervisor. The mere mention of supervisor and the suggestion that some decisions were “over her head,” psychologically nudged customers to do just that, go over her head to talk to a supervisor who was clearly the only person able to move the needle on the customer’s issue.