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Friday, October 2, 2015

What Training Gets Wrong with Difficult Customers

Frequently, I am asked by leaders how to deal with difficult customers.  The higher one gets in an organization, the tendency is to want a fail proof formula to help with these difficult situations. It makes sense as they tend to cost the business more to service, and have a greater impact on their brand. But leaders want to believe customers can be calculated like EBIT, and there is blanket solution.  

I hate to be the one to tell you, but there is no perfect formula.  And this is where many training programs go wrong, and why most service recovery programs are a disaster.

Many programs I have participated in and have taught from other vendors focused on either trying to throw empathy at the problem, or introducing a complex customer emotional matrix of action. 

Why this doesn’t work?  Explaining an abstract concept like empathy is haphazard at best.  I doubt many service professionals can honestly say, “I understand why you are upset, as I have had something similar happen to me.”  Even if they could, as a customer, I don’t care if it is happened to you, because it is happening to me. Now.    Frankly, the employee’s experience is irrelevant. Also, society is not as empathetic, making empathy not the tool it once was. 

The customer emotional matrices (Side note: what a great word?!)  imply humans work like math problems.  We simply don’t have the same shared experiences to make this true.  If customer expresses A emotion, agent does B action or gives compensation, and then C should occur and customer is back to neutral.  There are so many nuances that create an individual transaction.  It is in those details that determines the appropriate response.

The Gurus Solution
Let me preface, these solutions are for most service businesses, where you are providing a service or product.   These do not address the big events of life like moving, death of a loved one, or legal action.  The solutions below are a good start, but there is more to add with life events. 

1. Immediate Take Action Now Solution – Help and Train your Employees to Understand Fear makes Customers act emotionally.
People act out emotionally because of fear.   Customers begin to yell, cry, or are unresponsive, because something is scary to them.   It could be a financial implication to the situation. It could be fear of an expectation not being met.  It could very possibly be something that has nothing to do with the business at hand, but something else occurring in their life.   

When an employee understands an upset customer is at the core a scared individual, he can also understand he is the professional to reassure this frightened individual and get them to a better spot.  If you are in the service industry at all, you naturally want to help others. Wow, that is empowering!

Phrases we teach to help customers get past their emotions, “Tell me what happened.”   “I am sorry to hear you crying. What happened?”  “I hear you are upset.  What can I do to help?”  “What would fix this for you?”  “I will fix this for you.” This sounds similar to Service Recovery, but who cares what the label is.  It’s good stuff.

2. Longer-term Organization Health Solution- What are your problems?
Examine what is root cause for your top 5 emotional calls.  What is making your customers the most upset?  Is it a policy?  Is it a defect in your product? Are your employees rude?

Once you discover that valuable information, for goodness sake, fix them as best as you can. If it is something like a raised fee, which is very common, empower your employees with the clearest language why the change occurred.  Do not hide behind vague explanations and then be puzzled why customers get upset. “It is an administrative fee.”   Customers are smarter than that. 

For example, you have a fee increase.  You practice with your employees to say, “The fee increased 5% as the great vendors we use to help you have increased their prices.  We want to continue to offer these benefits, and that is why the increase was put in place.”  Still people could be upset, but at least it will be fewer people.  And it is certainly better than, “I don’t know.”  Worst. Answer. Ever!

The Customer Service Gurus offers an innovative and customized training on Servicing Difficult Situations.  Call 407-495-0846 or email for details.  

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