Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Defusing angry customers, part of Customer Service Foundations.
When you work in customer service, you're probably going to encounter an angry customer from time to time. This can be an extra challenge, because in any other situation, you'd instinctively want to get away from someone who is rude and angry. But in customer service it's our job to make them feel better. Negative emotions can have a heavy influence on customers' perceptions of service failures. Problems can feel even worse when a customer is upset or angry. When emotions get really inflamed, people become unreasonable and even more difficult to serve.
In his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman described a phenomenon called emotional hijacking. This occurs when emotions become so strong that they hijack the rational part of the brain. People suddenly lose the ability to be reasonable until these emotions can be soothed. Let's look at a scene where a customer experiences an emotional hijacking. >> Good evening. Are you checking in? >> Yes my name's Rachel Jones. >> Okay, let me look that up for you. I actually don't see your name here. Are you sure you made a reservation at this hotel? >> Yes, I'm sure, it's in there.
It's under Rachel Jones. >> Okay, Rachel Jones. Unfortunately, I don't see your name in here. We don't have your reservation, and we're fully booked tonight. So maybe you want to try a different hotel, something nearby? >> No, no, my assistant told me she had made me a reservation. Get me my room. >> Ma'am please, calm down. >> Don't tell me to calm down. Why should I be calm when you lost my reservation? You guys screwed up and you want me to be calm. Find my reservation, get me my room, and then I'll calm down. >> The scene began with a problem. The front desk associate couldn't find the guest reservation.
The problem escalated in part because the associate tried to avoid taking responsibility for finding a solution to the problem. It got even worse when the associate didn't acknowledge the guest's negative emotions. When a customer's emotions are running high, it's important to help them feel better. Your customer will likely get even more upset, and their problem will be even harder to solve if you try to confront them, or if they get the impression that you don't care. Here are a few techniques you can use to help diffuse a customer's anger. Listen.
Sometimes venting a little will help customers relax and feel better. Avoid confrontational phrases like telling a customer to calm down. Empathize with their situation and acknowledge their anger or frustration. Let customers know you're there to help. They're less likely to direct their anger at you if they feel you're on their side. Refocus the conversation towards finding a solution. Sometimes it's helpful to have a coworker or a manager step in when a customer gets really angry. In the hotel scene, the guest is angry at the front desk associate, so the guest might cool down a little if someone else were there to help them.
Let's see what happens when the supervisor gets involved. >> Yeah, thanks. My manager is on his way down. He'll be here in a second. >> Thank you. Hi, Ms Jones, my name is Carl. I'm the front desk supervisor. I'm hearing that we have some trouble finding your reservation, so I'd like to see if I could help you out. >> Look, my assistant made me a reservation at this hotel. I've spent a long day traveling, I'm tired, and I just want my room. I don't care if you're sold out. I have a reservation. Your employee actually told me that I should go to a different hotel. You call that service? >> I'm so sorry to hear that ma'am. We clearly haven't gotten your visit off to the best start, so let's see if we can find your reservation, okay? >> Okay.
>> Do you happen to have a confirmation number? That might help us locate you since your name's not in the system. >> no, I just have this email from my assistant saying she made the reservation. She said she booked me in the Century Hotel near the convention center. Oh crap. This is the City Center Hotel, isn't it? >> Yes it is. Oh my, oh my gosh, I'm, I'm so embarrassed. >> No, no, no it's okay. I understand. We both are close to the convention center and our names do sound alike. We'd love to have you as a guest tonight, but unfortunately all our rooms are sold out. But I know it's been a long day for you, and so if you're okay with it I'd like to call my shuttle driver and have you, have him take you over to Century Hotel.
>> That would be really nice. Thank you. >> Yep, absolutely. >> The supervisor was more successful in the second scene because he listened and let the guest vent without confronting her. The supervisor empathized with the guest, and then quickly refocused the conversation on finding a solution. Even when the guest realised the problem was her fault, the supervisor continued to be aware of the guest's negative emotions and tried to make the guest feel better. There's an old saying in customer service that the customer is always right.
Obviously this isn't literally true. As you saw in the scene, customers sometimes make mistakes. What's important to remember is our goal should be to help the customer be right. You may not be able to solve every customer's problem or give them exactly what they want, but you can try to make every customer feel better at the end of the interaction than they did at the beginning. Starting with a genuine desire to make angry customers feel better, even when that anger seems directed at you, can give you a better chance of making even the angriest customers happy again.
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- What is outstanding customer service?
- Identifying your customer
- Creating a customer service vision
- Enhancing likability in person, over the phone, and via email
- Actively listening to customers
- Going the extra mile
- Taking ownership of problems
- Diffusing angry customers
- Using data to evaluate and improve your customer service<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.