Whether on the phone or in person, the majority of jobs include some form of customer service and interaction with others. Due to your status as an employee, any customer issues, complaints and overall required assistance may be directed towards you in hopes of finding a remedy to their problem. Being able to effectively and efficiently interact with angry or dissatisfied customers is a fundamental aspect of job satisfaction, considering all of the repercussions negative experiences with customers can cause. Ranging from anxiety to lack of confidence and overall frustration towards your job, learning to master customer service will help prevent these consequences from occurring. These skills I’ll discuss will help ensure that both you and your customers leave the interaction feeling respected and understood!
- Resonate with Customers
Connecting with them on a person-to-person level can go a long way, especially when it comes to emotionally charged and negative interactions with customers. Customers often view you as an employee before they view you as a person. Due to this employee-customer dynamic between you and them, they will often perceive you as being on the opposing side of theirs. Empathetic comments and understanding will help remind customers that you are on their side and understand their emotions and thoughts, helping to de-escalate the situation and identify yourself as a friend and not as an enemy.
I have found this extremely helpful in my line of work. Even comments such as “I completely understand your frustration” go a long way in establishing a comradery with other individuals and preventing the situation from becoming hostile. An important note to remember is that this empathy must be sincere and truthful! Artificiality can be detected by others and might even escalate the situation altogether, so stay honest and put yourself in their shoes!
- Kill Them with Kindness
Maintaining a kind and positive approach to customers, despite their hostility, will help prevent emotional escalation as your reaction will not instigate more frustration within them. Killing them with kindness comes in many forms in customer service. For example, expressing gratitude for them bringing a problem to your attention is one way to kindly acknowledge their concern or issue. Another use of gratitude is to thank them for their patience during the process of addressing their problem. Although it can be difficult to maintain composure and a positive attitude when met with negativity, this is a fundamental part of customer service to consider!
One technique that has proven to be useful when interacting with others is repeating what they say back to them when responding to them. This helps show them that you are actively listening, retaining and understanding the information they are relaying to you, instead of them feeling as though they are talking to a wall. We can understand this through our own experiences in other aspects of life. When speaking to others and expressing concerns, without some form of back-and-forth or repetition of ideas to prove that there is reciprocation and that they are listening to us, we often feel frustrated and unfulfilled in our interactions. This is why repetition is especially important in customer service, considering how many interactions are emotionally charged and this technique will help combat this!
- Keep Them Informed and Aware
By informing the customer of all the steps you will be taking to address their problem or complaint, they will find comfort and resolution within this awareness. Walk them through the process of what happens now and what will come of their issue — instead of them being left in the dark. Keeping customers informed can also come in the form of explaining store or company policies which directly relate to their issue. This awareness will also benefit you when interacting with them by explaining the justification behind your chosen approach to the problem.
- Know It’s Not Personal
Lastly, for your own sake, make sure to remind yourself that these negative interactions are not personal! Any bad experiences with others have the potential to stick with us and we might often find it hard to leave our work experiences at work. However, never forget that the customer’s emotions are not directed towards you as a person, but instead towards their circumstance or towards the company or business you represent. With this being said, don’t let these experiences hinder your self-esteem or self-perception. Once your uniform is off and you’re no longer behind a counter, you’ll come to see that their problems and emotions have nothing to do with you.
There is no such thing as perfecting customer service. Every customer is unique, including their reactions, emotions and approaches to situations. With this being said, the same approach may not work for every customer and every issue. However, through continuous exposure to these kinds of interactions, you will slowly identify the best ways to address these issues for the benefit of you and the customer. Experience is the best teacher! Don’t shy away from these interactions, as they will only work to strengthen your customer service skills for the future.