Following the seven steps, walk through a real example of handling an abusive customer interaction in person. David Brownlee points out the steps and how the server handled the situation.
- If you work in a business where you have face-to-face contact with your customers, an abusive customer can be extremely difficult to deal with. Let's take a look at a face-to-face encounter. Pay close attention to how the server deals with the abusive customer. Can you identify the steps in this live scenario? (woman snapping) - Where is the other half of my salad? - Oh, what seems to be the problem? - It's missing the carrots, the beets, and it tastes like it has the wrong dressing.
- I see. Absolutely, let me take this back and get it fixed for you right away. Is there something I can get you in the meantime? - Can you get me back my time that you've wasted? I'm in a hurry. Just the salad, the correct salad would be great. - I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. Here's some fresh bread in the meantime. Should just be another moment, and I'll definitely check to make sure they got it right.
Are you visiting or traveling? - I don't eat bread. And look, I'm here to eat not to talk, so whether I am visiting or traveling is none of your business. I'm here for a salad. Where is the salad? - You're absolutely right. Your time is important. I'm going to go to the kitchen and check on that salad and get it out to you right away. I'm going to also check with the manager to see if we can get this meal fully comped.
Okay, I double checked with the kitchen. Should be perfect this time. Please let me know if there's any other issues. And again, I'm very sorry for the wait. - Ma'am, I'm sorry for the trouble. Your salad's going to be on the house today. - You should be sorry. How hard is your job? I come here all the time, and you guys always mess it up. And I really have no idea why I waste my money and my time here dealing with you morons.
- You know, there's really no reason to be disrespectful. I'm going to kindly ask you to leave. I'll go ahead and box this up so you can take it home with you. - Forget about your crappy salad! I am never coming here again. - You can see how intense abusive customer situations can get. Let's see how the server applied the seven steps. When the server started the interaction, he realized the customer was upset and asked, "Oh, what seems to be the problem?" He assessed the situation.
He reassured and empathized with the customer by offering to take the salad back to the kitchen and getting the customer something in the meantime. When he came back to the table, he tried to change her focus by asking if she was visiting the area. When that didn't work, the server went back to check on her salad. When he returned with her new salad and his manager, they offered to fully comp her meal. In that moment he was trying to solve her problem. When the manager realized that the situation was escalating and the customer was only becoming more abusive to him and his waitstaff, he aborted the situation by kindly asking her to leave the restaurant.
In this situation, the server does not have a means to follow up with the customer, so it's okay to end the interaction at this point. His safety and the safety of his coworkers is of utmost importance. Dealing with an abusive customer is not easy. But if you follow these steps more times than not, your customer will calm down and become more reasonable. If not, abort the situation. Try walking through these steps with a colleague or your manager. The more times you practice the more comfortable you will feel the next time you encounter an abusive customer.