Let’s face it, we’ve all had those customers that just push our buttons and makes us want to flip our lid. However, with the invention of social media, losing our cool in a public forum could lead to serious, business-killing consequences. It’s now more important than ever to ensure that you keep your cool in the face of a customer meltdown. A well-managed customer complaint could turn them from angry to raving fan… and raving fans love to shout their joy.
I know managing these folks can be extra hard in-the-moment when your emotions run high, so I found it extremely helpful to write out a 6-step process that I have memorized. I can recite my steps in a pinch to help keep control of the situation.
Today, I’m going to teach you how to B.E.C.O.O.L:
- B - Be Assertive
- E - Extend Your Speech
- C - Count Down Your Response
- O - Offer a Break
- O - Overstress the Positive
- L - Lead with Power
I’ll repeat, ASSERTIVE not aggressive or passive. Being assertive, in my mind, is to say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.
Let me give you an example. A customer says, “I want my money back, I don’t care if it’s past the return date.”
- An aggressive response would be: “Yeah, and I want my time back, what are you going to do about it?”
- A passive response would be: “Sure, I’ll talk to my manager about refusing you for absolutely no reason, would you like me to do that for you?”
- The IDEAL (assertive) response should be: “I know it can be frustrating for you, however our policies are in place to protect all of our customers while also protecting our interests and inventory. I’ll provide you with the number to reach our head office should you wish to make a complaint. I can also recommend selling the product privately to recoup your costs.”
In the assertive example, you are standing your ground as your position requires while still providing options to the customer. They may not have achieved what they set out to, though you can feel confident you’ve offered every solution you could.
Let this rule guide your conversations with all customers and you will always be confident, cool, and in control AND you’ll always be professional.
Extend Your Speech
Slow and steady wins the race. You’ll be amazed at how much more clearly you can think and how much control and confidence you experience when you consciously slow down your rate of speech. Speak slowly and methodically when your emotional triggers are launched and you’ll maintain poise during difficult conversations.
Need an example? Check out this world champion speaker, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi as he captivates and controls his audience.
Listen to how calm and collected he sounds, the even pace of his voice, and how he uses pauses to ensure he collects his thoughts and presents his points with ease and grace.
Speaking slower and in a lower volume has been proved to help de-escalate a customer. Want proof of this? I’m sure you’ve already seen it in action. When you are upset and yelling, when the person on the other end is calm and collected, how long can you keep yelling for? Without energies to feed off, rage will naturally subside.
Count Down Your Response
Yes, you are right, this absolutely ties into the above although it also needs to be mentioned on it’s own. It’s human nature to want to blurt out a response. This happens when we spend our time thinking up a response while the customer is still talking.
I used to do this A LOT. What I had to train myself to do is focus on listening. Once the customer finishes, I will use the silence to think, count down from 3 to 1, and once I’m done counting, I reply. It allows your brain a chance to process the information you were given and respond appropriately. It also helps the customer to identify that you were, in fact, listening.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t pick this up right away, it takes time. The important thing to do is ensure you are actively thinking through this process every time, until it becomes second nature.
Offer a Break
When you sense that your buttons have been pushed past the point of no return, it likely the customer is feeling the same way. It’s perfectly appropriate to offer a break at this point. Offer to review the situation and call them back, or ask if they could hold the line momentarily. You can tell the customer whatever reasoning sounds best at the time; The point is to get away from the customer for a few seconds so you can re-group.
Do not leave your customer hanging long. If you are offering a call back, make sure it’s the same day. If you need to reconvene a meeting, suggest the earliest possible commencement. This is intended as a break to calm minds and hearts, not to put the situation off.
Overstress the Positive
There’s no way to avoid sounding like Dr. Phil on this one, aand I’m quite serious. Instead of saying to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this #$%&.” Say something more positive like “This guy really needs my help.”
Thinking more positively helps you respond more positively and professionally. Negative thoughts lead to negative words, and it spirals into a very negative situation.
I know that it sounds impossible in some situations however it could be paramount in maintaining a professional calm.
You might be thinking, “What if I don’t have anything positive to say?”
Well, then you might be in the wrong professional. Many customer service professionals do what they do to make a difference, improve lives and interactions. Sometimes just focusing on your own WHY rather than reasons to be upset can take the heat off.
Lead with Power
Often, a subtle suggestion of your “power” is far more effective than the outright use of your power. It’s a difficult concept to explain, so I’m going to use an example from early on in my working career.
At one point, I worked on customer service lines at a call center. If a customer was being outright abusive, we had the ability to advise them we would terminate the call.
You can say this more than one way, of course, and only the right way will prevent customer nuclear meltdowns.
You could say to your customer: “If you don’t stop yelling, I will terminate this call.”
Or you could say, “I want to help you, but when you yell and cut me off, you make it difficult for me to work with you.”
The latter statement demonstrates your power and your message will get across. The former statement uses up your ammunition and won’t usually diffuse an irate customer, though rather add fuel to the fire.
Another great way to lead with power is to remove the phrase “you have to” and replace it with “you will need to”. Why you ask? No one likes to be told what to do, and words like “have” implied you are giving an order. By using NEED instead, you are implying that it’s out of your control, a need exists and must be filled before a goal can be reached. Makes it easier for the customer to understand that you cannot take certain actions without saying no directly.
These incredibly simple tips will help you keep cool when customers’ tempers burn hot.
It takes practice, and no one is perfect, though I am completely confident that with a little practice, you too will be able to master and customer blowout!
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And, if this has left you feeling emotional, check out our recent blog!