Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Using the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement technique, part of Working with Upset Customers.
- This video will show you how to use a technique called the Pre-Emptive Acknowledgement. It's one of my favorite techniques for preventing customer anger. The key to this technique is spotting situations where a customer is likely to get angry. You prevent their anger from boiling over by acknowledging their feelings before they actually get mad. When customers get angry, it's often because they have an unmet emotional need. It feels like nobody cares about their problem. The Pre-emptive Acknowledgement works because it acknowledges the situation and the customer's negative emotions before they boil over.
In most cases, the customer instantly feels better and never really gets upset. There are three steps to using this technique. Step one is the most important. You must spot the problem before the customer actually gets angry. For instance, if you see someone waiting in line and realize they're likely to get a little upset about the wait. Step two is to acknowledge the customer's emotions. You might tell a person waiting in line, "I'm sorry about the wait. "Thanks for being so patient." Step three, of course, is to fix the problem.
Chances are, someone has used the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement to make you feel better. Here's an example that's happened to almost everyone. Imagine you go out to a restaurant with family or friends. It's a busy night, but you relax and enjoy a nice conversation after placing your order. The evening is going well, until you start feeling hungry and your beverages are getting low. It seems like your order should have arrived by now. It gets even worse the longer you wait, and soon everyone at the table is talking about the delay.
Then the people at the table next to you get their order, and you're positive they arrived 10 minutes after you did. You look around to find your server, but it seems like they're deliberately hiding, because they're nowhere to be found. By the time your food arrives, everyone at the table's upset, and it becomes harder to have a good time. Now, let me give you the same scenario, except this time, your server uses the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement. You go out to eat with friends or family, place your order, and then enjoy your conversation. At a certain point in time, you start feeling hungry, your drink is getting low, and everyone at your table starts wondering when your food will arrive.
Just then, your server appears. "Hey, I'm so sorry about the delay. "I just checked in the kitchen, "and your order's the next one up. "In the meantime, can I refill your drinks?" We've probably all had both experiences, but when a server uses the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement, the delay ends up not being a big deal. I encourage you to download the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement worksheet to identify some situations where you can use this technique with your own customers. Start by thinking of a few situations where a customer's likely to get upset.
Maybe they've had to wait or perhaps you have to deliver some bad news. Next, think of ways you can acknowledge their feelings before they boil over, and finally, determine how you can refocus on getting to a solution. Remember, the key to this technique is spotting situations where you can use the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement before your customer gets upset. If you can do this, your customers will never realize how close they were to getting angry.
- Listening with empathy
- Helping the customer be right
- Preserving the relationship
- Learning from angry customers
- Passing along complaints
- Replacing trigger words