One of the principles of the martial art Aikido is to not see the person you’re fighting as an enemy, but rather as your partner. That's a great way to think about conversations with difficult customers. Learn how you can get customers to see that you both want to get to the bottom of the problem.
- I teach verbal aikido as an approach to handling difficult customers. One of the principles of the martial art Aikido is to not see the person you're fighting as an enemy or opponent. Aikido masters see the other person as their partner. They see the other person as a partner because they know they can use something from the person to help them be more successful. They'll blend with the other person's energy or use a person's movements against them. Conversations with difficult customers work the same way. The customer is your partner. They're your partner in the sense that you both have the same goal. You both want to get to the bottom of the problem. They're also your partner in the sense that you can pivot off of their energy and speak directly to their concerns. And the easiest way to do that is for you to take something they've said and then flip it into something positive. Here are three situations where you can do just that. One, to keep things positive. When you don't agree with what the customer is saying maintain partnership using expressions like, "I realize this is frustrating for you, "I can appreciate that, "I can see your point." Two, when the customer vents excessively. Positively move the conversation forward saying things like, "It sounds like you've had a frustrating time, "Let me take a look and see what's going on here," or "I think I may have a solution for you." And three, when you need to restore confidence. After a problem occurs you're at risk of losing the customer's confidence, but you can flip the conversation with partnering language like, "We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do, "This is no more acceptable to us than it is to you, "We're eager to fix this for you." Customers can be unreasonable or demanding, but try to see them as your partner. There's usually something the customer gives you through their words or tone that you can use. If they're intense, you can positively respond with a sense of urgency. If they're angry, instead of tip toeing around the anger address it head on in a positive way. "I sense you're upset. "I want to be a part of the solution." Pivoting the customer's negativity into positive responses puts you in control and moves you closer to a solution.