Two Customer Service Tips to Get What You Want and Calm Angry Customers
When I first started in customer service more than *cough* 20 years ago, I learned a few things I’ve carried with me in both my career, and in my life. In particular there are two tips that have served me well when communicating with customers that also translate to dealing with friends and family.
The first tip is how to best get something from someone. Whether it is a signed Letter of Intent, or an approval on a requirements document, how you frame your request is important. Which would you rather hear? “Sir, you have to sign these documents.”, or “Sir, I need you to sign these documents for me.” They have the same meaning; however, the tone is very different. When you tell someone they “have” to do something, they may take offense to being ordered about. On the other hand, if you tell them it’s a need, it feels like you’re asking for a favor, rather than barking a command. Tip: this can also apply to employees or even your kids if you say “I need you to pick up your socks”, rather than “You have to pick up your socks”.
The second tip involves communicating with angry, shouting customers. When I was a supervisor in customer service, a large part of my day was spent on the phone with upset customers. While they weren’t necessarily angry with ME, I was the voice representing the entity they were angry with. What I learned quickly was to never try to match their volume or tone. This only serves to escalate the situation. Instead, the louder their voice got, the quieter mine got. For most people, it’s much more difficult to shout at a person who is speaking softly, than it is one who is shouting back. Quietly letting them know you understand their frustration and would like to help fix the issue goes a long way in de-escalating the interaction. This often works during arguments at home, as well!
If you implement these two simple changes, you’ll be surprised at how positive your overall interactions will be, whether it’s with a customer, employee, or family member. Frame what you want as a request rather than a command, and you’ll see more success. Respond to loud, angry emotion by speaking soft and quiet, and you’ll help calm the other person instead of pouring fuel on the fire.
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