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.

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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

7 Phrases That Convey Empathy to Customers

One of the skills we practice in my onsite customer service workshops is how to acknowledge customer concern. That is, how to make the customer feel heard, respected and understood when they voice a problem or complaint.  Here are some of the exact phrases I share in my training sessions:

7 Phrases That Convey Empathy to Customers 

Continue reading “7 Phrases That Convey Empathy to Customers”

Trying to Get Customer Service Representatives to Convey Empathy? Here’s How.

One of the most frequent training requests we receive in my practice is training to help contact center agents be more compassionate, show concern and express empathy. Many times I’ve been asked, “Can you even train people to be empathetic and compassionate?” My answer is yes you can. But you’ll have to get radical with it.

A Radical Exercise in Empathy

I read about a radical exercise in empathy called “Xtreme Aging” where employees get to feel what it’s like to experience aging. The purpose of the exercise is to shed light on the fact that older adults in America are isolated and misunderstood and to change that. Participants in this training were given 3D glasses to simulate cataracts. Cotton balls were placed in their nose and ears to compromise their sense of hearing and sense of smell. They wore latex gloves to make it harder to feel individual objects. Small print documents were given to the participants to demonstrate how hard it can be to read mail or menus.

In all of this getup, participants were instructed to carry out simple tasks. This exercise has a profound and lasting impact on everyone who experiences it. People get to feel what it’s like to be elderly. You bet paradigms are shifted. People emerge with more compassion, concern, and empathy. This is how you get employees to feel and express empathy.

How I Helped My Employees Develop Empathy for Customers

When I worked in Consumer Affairs at Thrifty Rent-Car System, we had a big challenge with my staff understanding the stress Franchisees experienced on a day-to-day basis. The Franchisee was our primary customer, and good relations was critical for us. Using a radical experiential exercise, I helped my employees truly identify with our franchisees.

I had each of my employees fly out to a Thrifty Rental Car location in their region to work with a Franchisee for a week. My employees had to put on a uniform and show up for work every day at a rental car location. They experienced long lines, irritable customers, ringing phones and problems galore. My employees got to see what it was like to have to drop everything at the counter and wash a car to keep the lines moving. They saw what it was like to want to return a call to corporate, but not be able to because of the fires they had to put out immediately. They experienced the stress, busyness, and the unpredictable environment of working in the field.

Every one of my employees emerged from this experience changed. Relations with franchisees improved immediately. There was a greater patience, more empathy, and better communication. Plus they loved getting out of the corporate office for a “business trip.”

You teach people to care by letting them experience what your customers experience.

When you’re designing training with the objective of helping your employees care more and express concern, incorporate an experiential exercise that puts your people in your customer’s shoes. Your employees will more effectively identify with your clients, and you’ll observe more empathy and concern in interactions.


Myra talks about how one of her clients taught employees to convey empathy. Click play to learn how they did it.

Now you can get even more tips for the telephone call flow! Sign up for my free on-demand webinar and learn 4 ways to establish rapport with callers, discover Disney’s “3 o-clock Parade” strategy and see what Gumby can teach you about the telephone customer experience. Watch this 60-minute video now or share it with your employees.