Here’s How to Respond to the Customer Who Asks to Speak to Your Supervisor

Women with headsets working at a call center

Thanks to the Internet and social media, customers are savvier now than ever before.  Although this sounds like a good thing, the net result is an increase in stress for customer service professionals.

According to Newsweek magazine, the stress level of customer service representatives is comparable to that of air-traffic controllers and police officers.  To be clear, the role of customer service now ranks as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S.

One of the things I’m working on right now is how to find ways to relieve the stress contact center agents face on a daily basis. It’s hard to get verbally abused daily and to have to deal with constant phone calls and emails all day.

Dealing with the customer who demands to speak to your supervisor is stressful. The right approach to this customer will result in a less stressful situation for you.

Continue reading “Here’s How to Respond to the Customer Who Asks to Speak to Your Supervisor”

What Aikido Masters Know About Handling Difficult People That You Don’t

Aikido woman


I’m sitting at my desk reading feedback from my recent Verbal Aikido workshop. The workshop was: “What Aikido Master Know About Handling Difficult People That You Don’t” As you know, much of what I teach is focused on how to most effectively deal with difficult customers. So, for this special online training event I taught my clients how to deal with extremely difficult customers. I call these customers collectively The Consumer Vigilante. Here’s what one participant had to say about the training:

“We have seen versions of this before but I like that you are updating and refreshing these webinars. Sometimes seeing them refreshed or in a different format or something, it may help things click with some of the reps. I think with the climate we are in and more customers being stressed out than ever, we are having more and more challenging customers and our reps need the ammunition to help them and help themselves otherwise it makes the job so much harder. I can’t wait to get the recording of this to make this one a required webinar where we will sit down and talk about it afterwards as a team.”

Deb Riley, Former Consumer Affairs Supervisor, Ahold USA

In the training I explained that today’s consumers are impatient, savvy and relentless. Some customers, the consumer vigilantes, will stop at nothing. I walked my audience through the toll difficult customs are taking on employees and organizations:

  1. Extremely difficult customers are putting serious stress on employees. This stress is bringing down morale and inviting burnout.
  2. Difficult customers cost companies money! The time it takes to deal with unhappy and extremely difficult customers is taking time away from your best customers and resulting in a poor customer experience because staff can’t deliver the best service to the best customers.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.08.33 PM

Screen shot from my Verbal Aikido rehearsal

I shared thoughts, stories, perspectives and research to inspire my audience to take a more focused approach toward handling difficult customers. And then I presented a powerful solution to handling difficult customers, the consumer vigilantes of the world: What Aikido Masters Know About Handing Difficult People That You Don’t 5 Aikido Principles for Creating Calm, Defusing Anger and Moving to Closure with Difficult Customers.

If you missed the big event, you can still purchase the training video. Your training includes: Unlimited viewing within your organization with no expiration Rights to download and save webinar video Rights to incorporate webinar within your Learning Management System (LMS) What Aikido Masters Know About Handing Difficult People That You Don’t 60-minute video on-demand video training $299 per organization Purchase

Myra Golden’s Slide Deck from ICAE in Newport Beach: Verbal Aikido as a Strategy for Handling the Consumer Vigilante (Extremely Difficult Customers)

Aikido woman

I had such a fun Monday! I taught Aikido!

Well, I taught verbal Aikido.

On Monday, I had the privilege of being the opening keynote speaker at the Insurance Consumer Affairs Exchange Conference (ICAE) in Newport Beach, CA.

As you know, much of what I teach is focused on how to most effectively deal with difficult customers.

So, for ICAE I designed and delivered a keynote (and workshop) on how to deal with extremely difficult customers. I call these customers collectively The Consumer Vigilante.

In my keynote, I explained that today’s consumers are impatient, savvy and relentless. Some customers, the consumer vigilantes, will stop at nothing.

I walked my audience through the toll difficult customs are taking on employees and organizations:

  1. Extremely difficult customers are putting serious stress on employees. This stress is bringing down morale and inviting burnout.
  2. Difficult customers cost companies money! The time it takes to deal with unhappy and extremely difficult customers is taking time away from your best customers and resulting in a poor customer experience because staff can’t deliver the best service to the best customers.

I shared thoughts, stories, perspectives and research to inspire my audience to take a more focused approach toward handling difficult customers. And then I offered a powerful solution to handling difficult customers, the consumer vigilantes of the world:

Verbal Aikido

My keynote was very well received. We laughed, engaged and learned 5 principles from Aikido for dealing more effectively with extremely difficult customers.

For the benefit of my wonderful ICAE audience and as a treat for my blog readers, I am posting my slide deck from the presentation. I also have a link to the videos I talked about in my keynote.

Enjoy. Share. Learn. Download the slide deck right here.

“Put Yourself In Their Shoes” video http://youtu.be/cDDWvj_q-o8

This is such a powerful video that truly gets participants to feel for another person.

And here’s the Jack Nicholson clip I talked about near the end of my keynote:

I actually feature this clip in my full-day customer service workshops. It gets hilarious laughter for sure, but after the clip we discuss how the waitress could have handled this customer better.

Watch the video, paying careful attention to the waitress. Note your first impression as she approaches Jack’s table, her facial expression, attitude, etc. Next, flip the script. What might she have done differently to have the situation end MUCH differently?

Enjoy!

The lesson here, of course, is to be flexible and friendly. These two attributes will take you a long way with customers, even the most difficult of customers.

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Verbal Aikido: A strategy for handling difficult customers

Two young women dressed in kimonos bowing to each other

In my live Verbal Aikido workshops, I demonstrate the martial art Aikido and offer it as a strategy for diffusing anger. I began teaching this unconventional approach to managing conflict after having my breath taken away as I watched Steven Segal effortlessly defeat his opponents without violence or aggression in half a dozen of his movies. Aikido is a non-violent martial art that never meets force with force and can be applied to conflict situations with demanding, irate or unreasonable customers. (I’ve personally used Aikido in situations with customers, employees, and co-workers.) Using the principles of Aikido, you too can diffuse anger and demonstrate fantastic control over all aspects of verbal attacks.

People using “verbal aikido” can respond to heated situations directly and assertively without being pulled into the drama of the battle, and they can lay the foundation for win-win resolutions that maintain the customer’s loyalty – even with angry customers. Here are 6 Aikido principles that will help you more effectively respond to anger.

1. An Aikidoist strategically calms down the attack. This is done by both the use of relaxed body posture and open hands. Verbal attacks from irate customers also need the same calming strategy. In Aikido, the master will step aside rather than confront the attack. This takes power and speed out of the attack and allows the master to stay centered and calm. When you respond to your customer with “Clearly, we’ve upset you and getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” anger begins to dissipate. You’ve addressed the anger directly and non defensively, and you haven’t been pulled into the drama of the attack.

2. Aikido never meets force with force. In fact, there are no direct attacks and very little striking or kicking. When dealing with angry customers, it is natural to respond to attack with an attack. If the customer yells, we escalate our voice. When the attack gets personal, we become defensive and less willing to work with the customer. While we may feel justified in launching our attack because we’ve been attacked, we must realize that a defensive (forceful) response only escalates the original problem. Let’s learn from the Aikido masters and not attack back defensively. Instead, we will respond carefully and strategically.

3. Aikido emphasizes quick, decisive movements that are designed to use the attacker’s force against him. This is done through evasive movements, body shifting, and leverage. Taking this to a verbal level, you’d take a customer’s intensity and sense of urgency and use that to your advantage with a reply like: “No question, we’ve messed up. Getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” Instead of letting the customer’s intimidation tactics negatively impact you, you turn that energy back at the customer by pacing his actions.

4. Aikidoists blend with their opponent’s energy. In Aikido, this looks as if you move toward your opponent and then change places with them. In a verbal attack, blending with your customer is finding common ground with the customer. You can blend with your angry customer by listening with a sincere intent to understand their pain, frustration, and needs and then responding with empathy. The knowledge you gain from listening to your customer becomes your force and positions you to redirect the energy in a productive direction. Once you’ve blended with the customer, that is, once you truly understand the customer’s situation, the attack can be neutralized and redirected.

5. Aikido students learn to turn with their opponent’s force and let that force go past them. When we respond to angry customers in this way, we’re able to keep our cool when customers get hot. We don’t get caught up in the emotion of anger. Instead, we allow the customer to express his feelings, and we don’t take comments personally, and we don’t allow our feelings (anger, rejection, offense) to control our responses.

6. An Aikido Master never seeks to kill his opposition. When we transfer this principle to customer service situations, we realize that our goal is to never hang up on a customer, blow a customer off, or “fire” a difficult customer. Our goal is to find more diplomatic ways to communicate and reach win-win resolutions.

7. In Aikido, all opponents are considered partners. Think of your angry customer as your partner and let this mindset direct you to use interactive dialogue to work with your customer to solve the problem. Try to not resist or coerce your “partner.” Work with your partner, talk with your partner, and seek solutions that benefit the customer and the company.

Applying the principles of Aikido to challenging situations with unhappy customers allows you to maintain composure and control, and efficiently diffuse anger. The next time you’re faced with a demanding customer, why not go Steven Segal…you’ll have fun and you’ll be amazed how productive you’ll be!

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What response would you use in the event a customer starts yelling and cursing at you?

Yesterday I delivered my “Becoming a Customer Service Rockstar” presentation to a wonderful long-time client, the International Contact Center Association (ICCA). During the Q & A segment, an attendee asked,

“What response would you use in the event a customer/client starts yelling and cursing at you?”

That was such a great question that I thought I’d share my response with you.

You don’t have to get frustrated dealing with demanding, irate, or unreasonable customers and you don’t have to put up with verbal abuse and threats from customers. You just need the right tactics, assertiveness, and the right attitude. Here’s how I responded to my attendee’s question yesterday.

Draw the line on yelling and profanity with phrases such as:

▪ “I’m trying to help you, but if you continue to yell and swear, I am going to ask that you call back another time. It’s up to you…which would you prefer?”

▪ “I’m sorry. It isn’t possible to help while listening to that language. If it stops, I can help.”

▪ “If a few minutes helps you calm down before we continue, that would be fine. You can certainly call me back.”

▪ “I want to help you, yet the language is getting in the way.”

Note: Your tone is critically important to the above statements. You must come across calm, neutral, and non-threatening.

These phrases let customers know that you will not tolerate verbal abuse. They give customers the option of “shaping up” or ending the interaction.

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