Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Using preemptive acknowledgment to prevent negative emotions, part of Customer Service Foundations.
Working with angry or upset customers is one of the most challenging aspects of customer service. I'd like to share a simple technique that allows you to diffuse customer anger before it even begins. The technique is called the preemptive acknowledgment. You may recognize this technique because it's probably been used on you. And you can use it right away with your own customers. The key to this technique is to preempt customer anger by spotting situations where a customer is likely to get angry and then addressing their negative emotions before they boil over.
When customers get angry, they're not just angry about a specific problem, what really makes them upset is that nobody seems to care about their problem. The preemptive acknowledgement works because it prevents your customer from experiencing these negative emotions. Now there are two important things to remember about this technique. First, you must spot the problem before your customer becomes angry. Unfortunately, this technique doesn't work if your customer's already upset. Second, you need to acknowledge your customer's emotions in addition to fixing the problem.
Here's an example of how someone has likely used the preemptive acknowledgement on you. I'm actually going to give you two scenarios, one without the technique and one with it, so you can see the difference. 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 there comes a time when you start feeling hungry and your beverage is getting low. Seems like your food should have arrived by now. The feeling intensifies the longer you wait and then the people at the table next to you suddenly get their food, hey they arrived 10 minutes after we did, how come they have their food already? You look around to find your server, but it seems like they're deliberately hiding because they're no where to be found.
By the time your food arrives everyone at the table's upset. It becomes harder to have a good time. Now let me give you the same scenario with the pre-emptive acknowledgement. You go out to eat with your friends or family, place your order, and then enjoy your conversation. At a certain point in time, you start to feel hungry, your drink is getting low and everyone at your table starts wondering where your food is. Just then your server appears, hey, I'm so sorry about the delay. Just checked in the kitchen and your order's the next one up. In the meantime, can I refill your drinks? You've probably all had both experiences.
But when a server uses the preemptive acknowledgement, the delay ends up not being a big deal. Let's talk about how you can use this technique with your own customers. Start by looking for situations where a customer is likely to become angry or upset. Maybe they've had to wait or perhaps you have to deliver some bad news. Next, acknowledge their feelings. For example, you might say, thank you for your patience, I'm very sorry you've had to wait. Finally, fix the problem. Just remember, the key is spotting situations where you can use this technique before your customer gets upset.
If you can do this, your customers will be happier, your day will go smoother and fewer little problems will become big ones.
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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.