Tag: How to Handle Difficult Customers

Always Link the Communication Chain In Customer Interactions

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Psychologists talk about what they call the Communication Chain. The Communication Chain says that when a person puts out a verbal message, they expect a response to that message. That first message is a link in the communication chain. If there’s no response to the link, the chain is left unlinked or broken.

Let’s say that instead of reading this article, you’re a participant in one of my workshops. And let’s say, I start the training off with, “Good morning!”

And let’s say, that when I say good morning, the room is silent. No one says a word to me. How do you think I’d feel, if I opened with a high energy greeting, and not one person said a word?

I’d feel awkward. Embarrassed. I’d probably be thinking, this is not going to go well.  Whatever I’m thinking, or feeling, it’s negative, right? And my next response would be dictated by the negative feelings in my head. I might not be my best as a trainer, because I’m a little embarrassed, and feeling rejected.

If most of the people in my live audience, in my example, said back to me, Good morning, the chain would have been linked; I wouldn’t have felt rejected, and all would’ve been well.

When the link is broken, people can feel rejected, slighted, or angry. – You don’t want your customer to feel any of these emotions. Avoid negative feelings by linking the communication chain. You link the chain by acknowledging whatever your customers put out there.

Here are some good examples of how to acknowledge concern:

This Is What You Say When a Customer Cusses At You

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I cuss. A lot. But never have I dared to cuss at a person in a customer service role. And I get rather upset about lousy customer service and still manage to talk nicely to people about any issues I encounter. Some people cuss, and yell and make threats when they are angry about customer service. This is not okay.

You have to draw the line on unacceptable behavior with customers, just as I hope you do in your interpersonal relationships when people disrespect you. You get the behavior you tolerate. So, don’t tolerate profane language.

Diplomatic comebacks to cussing set you up as professional and assertive, and they help you get the respect you deserve.

Here are seven comebacks for the customer who cusses at you. These responses are professional and will get the job done.

I Had to Pull the “Get Me a Manager” Card. Here’s Why.

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I’ve told this story on my blog before, so bear with me if you’ve already heard it. I’m standing at the front desk of a nice hotel in Baltimore. The front desk clerk is having a problem with my reservation. I wondered if it was because I had literally just booked the reservation 45 minutes prior, just as I got into my rental car at the airport. I told the hotel employee that perhaps my very recent booking was the problem.

He called hotels.com, the company I used for booking, not once, but two times, about my reservation. When he didn’t get things sorted out after two lengthy calls to hotels.com, he told me, “I’m just going to cancel your hotels.com reservation and rebook you in our system.”

I was eager to get into my room and rest up for a week of full-day training sessions. His suggestion sounded good to me. That is, until, a couple of months later when checking my hotels.com account, I get a message stating that my 6-night hotel stay in Baltimore had been removed from my Rewards Account and that I would not get credit for that stay.

The primary reason I use hotels.com is for the rewards. I travel a lot. It takes ten hotel stays to earn a free hotel night. In June I earned two free hotel nights and used both of those nights for get-aways with my husband. I travel a lot.

Now, the hotels.com call center is telling me that because they couldn’t help my hotel in Baltimore sort out a problem, they are removing my earned rewards? Pretty quickly in the interaction, I asked to speak to a manager. Here’s why I felt I needed to do this.

1. The number one thing customers want is help. When you don’t/can’t help, customers instinctively want to climb the ladder.

Trying to get my deserved hotel rewards, I called hotels.com. I spoke with an employee who put me on hold three times and ultimately told me there was nothing he could do. Literally, he said, “Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do.” This declaration certainly didn’t help me out. So, I said, “May I please speak with your manager?”

2. Customers also want acknowledgment. Another way to think of this is empathy. Without acknowledgment/empathy, it sounds like you don’t care. And if you don’t care, they might as well speak to someone else.

3 De-escalation Strategies for Angry Customers

My daughter and I were driving home from church Sunday afternoon. We were in the left hand turn lane behind another car. We had the green arrow, yet the car in front of me hadn’t started to accelerate. The driver behind me laid on the horn something terrible. I actually turned around to look at her. She let up for a second and then honked again. “Ridiculous,” I said to my daughter. In the rearview mirror I saw the lady was giving me the middle finger, all because she assumed I was the holdup at the light.

About the time I got flipped off, the driver in front of me turned left and I followed. The honking profane driver quickly accelerated and then drove side -by-side me. What? Then she literally drove into my lane, nearly hitting me!

I found myself getting heated and frankly, I wanted to cuss. But my daughter was in the car and I had to ensure her safety, as well as my own. So, I had to de-escalate the situation. In my peripheral I could see the lady gesturing at me still. I avoided eye contact, didn’t return the bird gesture and I didn’t even utter words that the driver wouldn’t hear anyway. I slowed down just a bit so that she had to pass me. And then, it was over.

My mistake in this situation was physically turning around and looking at the driver. That enticed the driver to continue and become more aggressive. Fortunately, I’m skilled in de-escalation because I teach de-escalation in my Verbal Aikido training sessions. The moment I realized my error, I moved into de-escalation. My de-escalation tactic in this situation was to avoid eye contact, so not to appear threatening or aggressive, and to choose silence as opposed to profanity. I let it go and the out of control driver was defused, or at least, the situation for me and my daughter was calm.

De-escalation is a strategic tool that your employees can use when they find themselves in a ridiculous situation with an agitated, angry or out of control customer. Not unlike what I experienced in traffic 2 days ago.

Examples of de-escalation include:

6 Verbal Aikido Tactics Everyone Who Handles Difficult Customers Should be Using

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No matter what your product or service is or what business you’re in, your employees will have to deal with difficult customers.

I know that’s an easy question, but here’s the problem:

Very few people in customer service actually get the training they need to get an angry customer to back down, regain control and gracefully respond to the customer who demands to speak to a supervisor.

So that’s why I’m sharing these tactics… to show you a fast and easy new way your employees can create calm and regain control with difficult customers.

7 Comebacks for the Customer Who Cusses at You

To get straight to the 7 Comebacks for the Customer Who Cusses at You, head to the end of this post. I won’t be offended at all. But if you have a minute, I’d like to tell you about my weekend first, and the conversation that inspired this post, addressing customers who swear.

It’s been a busy time for me with work lately, but I made enjoyment and family the priority over the weekend. Last week was dedicated to preparing for a keynote for the wonderful folks at F&M Bank. I delivered the keynote on Saturday and it was so very well received. God was with me!

After my keynote, I met up with my daughter and we walked to a lovely vegan-friendly restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City. My daughter had already eaten, so she enjoyed a decadent dessert while I savored every bite of my Cauliflower Steak lunch, with kale gremolata, and scarlet quinoa with apples and squash. I loved it!

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The Most Crushing Mistake Most Customer Service People Make: Not Being Friendly o_O

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On the way into my office this morning I stopped to get coffee and breakfast for my team. I don’t do this often enough. When I managed a call center, I would regularly pick up donuts or pastries. I have to do better in my own company. Do you bring treats in for your team? If so, how often do you do it? I need the motivation to get back in gear.

I wanted to treat my small team today for working so hard over the weekend and yesterday into the evening on the big project of moving our entire eLearning roster and training modules to a new hosting site.

My first stop was at a fast food restaurant. I pulled up to the window, and this is what I heard. “Welcome to _____. Order when you’re ready.” The welcome, if you can call it that, was delivered loudly, matter-of-factly, and it even suggested that I needed to hurry up and order, and not wait until I was ready.

I placed my first order. I barely finished my sentence when the person said; “Your total is $5.12 at the first window.” I still had several more items to order! When I awkwardly said, “I actually have more things I’d like to pick up today.” the lady said, “Go ahead when you’re ready.”

I finished up this tedious ordering process, and 10 minutes later I was in the drive-thru at Starbucks, which is next door to the fast food place.

I pull up to the Starbucks drive-thru, and I am greeted with:

The Psychology of Customer Anger (Flashback Friday)

Flashback Friday! My kids used to post Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday photos on Instagram. They don’t  do that anymore. In fact, they spend more time on Snapchat than on Instagram.

Well, I’m doing a Flashback post of my own – even if flashback posts are out of style.

I joined YouTube in 2007 and one of the first videos I published was “The Psychology of Customer Anger.”

That cheesy video has gotten over 60,000 views. I cringe when I look at the quality of the video and my style in front of the camera. My son laughed out loud when he came into my office last night and I had the video up.

I look so different from back then, nearly 10 years ago. I’ve lost weight, like 30 pounds. I wear my hair kinky curly. I like to think I’m more controlled and poised in front of the camera.

But my strategies haven’t changed. Not much anyway. I’m taking a risk and posting this Flashback Friday video because one, some or all of these tips just may help you get an angry customer to back down.

Try not to laugh too hard.