What happened next was worse than the bad service.

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I recently witnessed a customer service employee take a fairly loud and pointed verbal blasting from a customer. The customer wasn’t happy to hear that the faulty iron he was returning could not be replaced until next week. The employee was putting away stock at the time and kept repeating, with little or no genuine concern, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do about it”.  The customer’s response was to stand his ground and say he would not leave without a new iron.

Bystanders may perceive this type of interaction differently. You may think….

·        Gee, settle down Mr Customer. Who really needs a new iron that quickly?

·        It’s never OK to raise your voice and make demands of a service provider.

·        As a customer, sometimes raising your voice is the only way to get what you want.

·        Their irons are faulty so I wonder how reliable the rest of the stock is?

The one thing that everyone will agree on was that the interaction gained attention and not the good kind a business wants. The interaction left everyone feeling some form a negativity. Empathy is the key soft skill your staff need when interacting with all customers – the one’s in front of them and the one’s within eye or ear shot.

Empathy is our ability to “put ourselves in the other person’s shoes”. The first step to being truly empathetic, is to first remove our own shoes. When we do that, we stop judging others based on our perceptions of how we believe things should be. We consider that everyone is unique and that when we interact with customers, rarely will we know what has or is happening in their lives that is fueling their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Your staff may not be able to control how the customer chooses to communicate their thoughts and feelings, but what they must control is thier response.

Remember these 3 Tips:

1.  Empathy. Not all customers will be right, but it’s of no value and can do great damage to a business, if staff seek to prove them wrong. Empathy does not mean agreeing with the situation; it means considering how the situation makes the customer feel.

2.  Move. It’s normal to feel annoyed or overwhelmed by a customer’s difficult or demanding behaviour. If possible, move the conversation to a more private location. Some customers like an audience and some don’t, but both may feel less frustrated in a more private setting.

3. Actively Listen. Avoid the urge to interrupt an upset customer. Let them talk it out. Think of it like letting steam out of a boiling kettle. Let the customer get rid of the built up pressure before you tell them what you can or cannot do. Telling an upset customer something they don’t want to hear is much easier on you and them, if they aren’t a red hot kettle.

So, back to the unhappy iron man.

He left without his iron and saying words to the effect of “never shopping there again.” That's when the real problem began. The customer service employee relived the event with his co-worker. Myself and 5 other customers could hear the conversation which included “grumpy old man” and “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this @#*!”

Going by the look on the faces of the other customers when the customer service provider was sharing his story with his co-worker, I think they too will be sharing the story - but not in the favour of the business. 

Book your FREE Customer Service Analysis today to find out what it takes to create your own team of Customer Service Professionals. Customer Service Professionals can iron out all types of customer concerns, leaving everybody wrinkle free and feeling valued and respected. 

By CATE SCHRECK - Service Excellence Coach and Author of The A - Z of Service Excellence