Interacting With Angry Customers – Practical Tips For Any Associate

No one likes to deal with angry people. It’s not fun in your personal life and it is certainly unpleasant when you are a frontline associate dealing with an angry customer. While most customers may know that you are not personally at fault as an associate, you do represent the company and often bear the brunt of the negativity.

So what are some of the best ways to help diffuse a negative situation? Here are some suggestions for not only showing the customer that you are ready to help them with their issue, but also to help you create loyalty along the way.

  1. Personalize the conversation. Be observant, compliment the customer on something that they are wearing that you like or ask them how their day is going. This will engage the customer and make them understand that you see them as a person, not just as a customer.
  2. Listen for the underlying emotion. Every customer has an emotion. They could be sad, happy, angry, frustrated, elated, excited, concerned, etc. Listening to why a customer is upset is the first step in demonstrating that you actually “hear” them.
  3. Relay the emotion. After determining the underlying emotion, say something like, “I hear you are frustrated, but I would like to help you with your issue.” This will almost immediately calm someone down. If you haven’t heard the correct emotion, the consumer will automatically say “I’m not frustrated; I’m really disappointed in the store’s policies. I have been a customer for years and they are treating me terribly”. At that point, saying “I’m sorry you are disappointed, but I would like to help you” will set the stage for a cordial exchange.
  4. Employ the word “help.” Saying throughout the conversation, “I would like to help you with that”, “I’m so glad that you are here (or called) so I can help you with that issue” or “you have come to the right place (or person)”, will send a strong message to the customer that you really do want to assist them.
  5. Be Flexible. Rules should be guidelines, not rigid policies that cannot be adjusted. Is it really worth losing a loyal customer who might spend $500 a year in your place of business over a $25 issue?
  6. Be Empowered. Make sure that your company has a policy which empowers you to make decisions regarding customer satisfaction, without a manager’s consent. Having a dollar amount whereby you can instantly make a customer happy and loyal can be a powerful tool to use when addressing customer complaints. When associates have little or no authority it’s a bad reflection on the establishment and does nothing to create long lasting customer relationships.

Most of us, whether we are in the customer service industry or not, have little tolerance for bad service. I know myself that I can get pretty angry and frustrated by robotic, indifferent or hostile service associates and unfriendly customer policies. But, I also know that if a representative really listens to my underlying emotion and offers their help, I’m eager to put a smile back on my face and see how the representative can make my day a bit better. I hope these tips will help make your job a little easier and your day a bit better as well!


Making A Difference: The Little Things Count

Years ago, one of my clients made special arrangements for vendor partners and company associates from out of town to stay at a small boutique hotel in San Francisco. I do a great deal of traveling, but can still vividly remember the experience of driving up to the hotel for the first time, having the valet open the door of the taxi, take my bags out of the trunk and give me an extremely warm greeting saying, “Mr. Shapiro, welcome to the Pan Pacific Hotel”. How did the hotel associate know my name? He probably read the tag from my luggage as he was removing my bags from the back of the cab. It was a little thing, but it made such a big difference.

I then proceeded up to the third floor lobby, where as soon as I approached the front desk, the folks behind the counter said “Mr. Shapiro, we are so glad to see you today.” Once again, it made me feel welcomed, important and appreciated.

A few months later, I traveled again to San Francisco and returned to the Pan Pacific Hotel. When I entered my room, I realized they had upgraded me to a small suite and there was a handwritten note addressed to me on top of a large fruit basket saying, “Mr. Shapiro, we welcome you back to the Pan Pacific Hotel. We appreciate your business.” I thought to myself, “Wow, they had determined in advance what room I would be in…even before I ever arrived.” These small actions indicated an attention to detail and a level of forethought that I truly appreciated.

This series of encounters made me feel that the hotel valued my business during that stay but equally as important, they wanted to see me in the future as well. It’s the little things that do make a difference. Say my name in a meaningful manner, give that special smile that makes me feel welcomed, write that unique, handwritten note and communicate the message that you do truly appreciate my business. Are all of these actions too much to ask? I think not. After all, I still remember driving up to the hotel almost 20 years later as if it were yesterday.

What are the ‘little things’ that you and your associates can do to make your customers and guests feel welcomed and to differentiate your company from the others?