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Understanding Conflict With Angry Customers


Why to angry customers act the way they do and what's the most common customer service mistake

Work911 - Help @ Work

Customer Service File - The #1 Mistake Made Dealing With Angry Customers
By Robert Bacal, M.A.

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include Performance Management - A Briefcase Book, and The Complete Idiot's Guide To Managing Difficult Employees. The Work911 Supersite contains many more free articles and tips on a number of workplace topics.

We all deal with angry customers, and it's enough to drive people up the wall. Angry and difficult customers are a major cause of workplace stress, and they eat up huge amounts of your time and the resources of your organization. There are a lot of tricks and techniques you can use to deal with an angry customer, and we'll cover a number of them in future editions of the Help @ Work Customer Service File. For now, let's focus on the most common mistake employees make when dealing with the hostile, difficult or angry customer. By avoiding this particular error, you can save yourself a lot of stress and time.

The #1 Mistake

When you are faced with an angry customer, you probably assume that the customer wants his or her "problem" fixed. That's a logical approach and it's at least partly true. Angry customers expect that you will be able to help them in some concrete way, by meeting their want or need. However, there's more to the story.

Ever notice that with a really angry person, even if you can "fix" the problem, the person still acts in angry or nasty ways? Why is that? Well, actually angry customers want several things. Yes, they want the problem fixed, but they also want to BE HEARD, TO BE LISTENED TO, and to have their upset and emotional state recognized and acknowledged.

What most employees do with angry customers is move immediately to solve the problem without giving that acknowledgment. Do you know what happens? The customer is so angry that he or she isn't prepared to work to solve the problem, doesn't listen, and gets in the way of solving the problem. So the number one error is moving to solve the problem before the customer is "ready", or calm enough to work with the employee. The result is the employee has to repeat things over and over (since the customer didn't hear), and has to ask the same questions over and over. And that's what drives people nuts.

The Solution

The solution is to follow this general rule: When faced with an angry customer, FIRST focus on acknowledging the feelings and upset of the customer. Once the customer starts to calm down as a result of having his or her feelings recognized, THEN move to solving the problem. You'll find that this will save you a lot of time and energy.

Here are a few phrases you can use:

  • It seems like you're pretty upset about this and I don't blame you. Let's see what we can do.
  • It has to be frustrating to have to return a faulty product.
  • Most people would be angry if their hotel reservation got lost and they were stuck.

Make sure you address the feelings first, THEN move to fix the problem. You must do both.

About Company

Established in 1992, Bacal & Associates is a small training, consulting and publishing company with a core business centering around all aspects of communication, including helping deal effectively with conflict, dealing with difficult people, and dealing with hostile customers.

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