Today’s post is by Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
One of the things that all irate customers have in common is that they have an attitude that says “I rate better service than this and now that I have you on the phone, you’re going to pay for it!” And one of the other things about them that gets to you is you feel unjustly accused of having done this to them and that can make it difficult to remain calm.
That is why the first three tips are about ways to remain or regain your calm and the final four about what to do next.
1. 3 Strikes and You’re Calm – 1. Think of the first thing you want to say or do in response to an irate customer (which is about defending or protecting yourself). Don’t do it, take a breath and exhale. 2. Then think of the second thing you want to say or do (which is about retaliating). Don’t do that, take a breath and exhale. 3. And finally think of the third thing you want to do (which is about finding a solution) and do that.
2. Assume innocence – Unless you are dealing with a truly evil person, assume that nothing is going right in the person’s life and they have chosen this interaction with you to displace all their frustration as a way of not taking it personally when it is meant for your company or product and not you.
3. Opportunity for Poise – Keep a sign up that you can see in your work station that says, “Opportunity for Poise,” and realize that every time you deal with an irate customer with poise, it is an opportunity for the situation to go more smoothly and afterwards, feel self-respect for yourself. If you’re having trouble getting to that place and still have some internal venting, imagine yourself venting at someone who cares about you in your head, “I don’t care about this being an opportunity for poise, I want to rip this person’s head off.” And keep imagining that person repeating each time you vent, “Yeah, I know you don’t want to use this as an opportunity for poise, but do it anyway” until you’re calmer.
4. Ask questions in a sequence for different types: TDF (Think, Do, Feel) for logical types; FDT (Feel, Do, Think) for emotional types. When you match your questions to either of those processing sequences, people feel much more understood and calm down.
5. FUD Diffusion Tool – Find out what Frustrated, Upset and Disappointed the customer about their experience and how much. When you offer people words for a negative experience and then have them rate how much they felt each (little, moderate, a lot), they calm down
6. “In Your Mind’s Eye tactic” – After you go through the FUD Diffusion Tool with each irate customer, ask them, “What in your mind’s eye can we now do to make this better for you?”
7. Take Notes – Say to the irate customer, “This is too important for me not to get down exactly what you have said and I don’t want to take the chance on missing anything, so I’m taking notes and then I’d like to read them back to you to make sure I understood exactly what you said.” By telling them their complaint is important and you’re going to take notes and then read them back to them, you’re forcing the customer to have to listen to what he or she said and forcing them to do that will slow them down.
Whatever you do, keep telling yourself that you are choosing to be in this job rather than someone is making you be in it. When you do the latter, you feel like a victim, when you do the former, you feel less put upon.
– Mark Goulston is a business consultant, coach, speaker, former FBI hostage negotiation trainer, and psychiatrist. The author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (CLICK HERE to get your copy), he blogs for Huffington Post and Psychology Today. He also co-hosts a weekly radio show and is featured frequently in major media, including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, NPR, CNN, Fox News, and the Today Show..
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