Mark your Calendars for October 4 – 8, 2021, because we’re celebrating National
When you need to pre-empt an escalation in aggression with a customer, reframe the conversation using the three steps politicians and CEOs use for damage control and to control the message.
There are four attributes of empathy, and I teach each of these characteristics in my Empathy eLearning course. One of the characteristics is communicate your understanding.
When your customer is upset, or frustrated, you could communicate your understanding this way:
In a series of events, people remember the first thing, and the last thing, more than anything else. That’s why the way you open a call, and the way you end a call, is so meaningful.
Your call closing must do two things.
You need to share any next steps with your customer; and then, you need to end with a fond farewell. In this article, you’ll learn how to assertively bring calls to closure, and end with a fond farewell.
1. Start the call closure process by giving the customer any next steps.
Sharing next steps lets the customer know the call is almost over, and, this helps you to close the call quickly.
If you have next steps, just, share them. “Alright, Deon. I have processed your return. We’ll go ahead and ship the blue Nike Elite socks, and you should have those within 4-7 business days. You can check the status of your return by logging into our website.”
2. And, then you need to end with a fond farewell.
After you’ve shared any next steps, you move right into the final closure. End with the same energy and friendliness you had when you started the call. Nice farewells include:
My course, “Delivering Bad News to a Customer” for Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning is now live! If you struggle with how to deliver bad news to customers, you’ll want to take this class. Here’s a description […]
This week, I’m filming video training for a client in Southern California. Each morning before we shoot, I get treated to makeup art by Christina, a talented, gorgeous and charismatic makeup artist.
The first day I worked with Christina, she asked me about what I teach in my videos and training classes. “I help frontline employees deliver the best possible customer experience,” I said. “Usually, I’m focused on helping people show concern and empathy and on handling difficult situations with diplomacy and tact.”
It turns out, Christina is not just an amazing makeup artist; she knows a thing or two about customer service. “When I worked at Nordstrom,” she told me, “I would notice how stingy my employees would be when customers would ask for makeup samples. But then if the same employees had a friend or their mother come in, they were so generous, friendly and fun. They’d be like, ‘Mom, you have to try this; let me give you these to take home!’”
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.
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:
5 web self-service strategies that will slash your incoming support calls
My Business Phone (Almost) Never Rings.
And That Makes Me a Genius.
I remember back to my first few years in business when I was tethered to my BlackBerry, constantly returning phone calls and replying to emails. My business phone rang so much that I needed to hire an answering service.
Things are different today. For one, I am not shackled to my smartphone! And two, and this is a biggie – my office phone rarely rings.
My non-ringing business line is not a bad thing. I have worked strategically to create a web self-service strategy that answers more than 95% of my customers’ questions. And this well-designed strategy has made my support calls nearly vanish.
No doubt, my business is a small business. Most large businesses won’t slash incoming calls by 95% with even the best self-service strategy. But research cited by Harvard Business Review shows that by improving the help section on your website, you can reduce calls by 5% — easily.
Three out of 4 consumers prefer to solve their customer service issues on their own. And 65% of consumers say that they feel good about themselves and the company they are doing business with when they resolve a problem without talking to customer service. Here’s one last statistic for you. Fifty-seven percent of inbound calls come from customers who went to the website first! That startling statistic is from Harvard Business Review.
Here’s how I make my customers feel good about themselves and my company, while reducing my support call volume. Five simple ways.
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.