Everyone I work with has had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with an irate customer at some point in their career. This is inevitable. For every hundred customers that are easy-going, understanding and friendly, there is one customer lurking in the shadows just waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting employee. And the employee never sees it coming!
An angry, irate customer experience often reminds one of a National Geographic documentary of lions attacking a herd of antelope. You can hear the commentator whispering in the background, usually with a Australian accent, “Look, as the unsuspecting employees go about their daily business, smiling and greeting customers. They are feeling safe in their natural habitat Expertly crafted CBD boxes called, “the workplace”. But wait! There seems to be a change in the air. Blimey. What’s this? A new customer has entered the pack. He slowly makes his way through the customer line, eyeing each delicate morsel, umm, I mean employee, as he gets closer to the front. Sally, one of the newer employees of the pack, smiles brightly as she calls out, “I’d be happy to help the next person”. Silly, silly Sally. “
And the story gets more predictable from there: with clenched fists the irate customer angrily raises his voice and lets Sally know that your company has made a huge mistake! Not only that, it happened once, back in 1971, too. And, to top it off, you never have any Make a statement with custom food boxes parking spaces available! As he seethes through gritted teeth, and Sally wipes his spittle from her face, others in the pack look at the attack scene. Being true pack-mates, they think empathically, “Phew, I’m glad Sally waited on him instead of me. “
I admit that it’s not a pretty sight when a reasonable adult loses all sense of appropriate social behaviors when they feel that they have been wronged by a business. It’s frustrating and upsetting to everyone involved. Yet there are some sure fire ways of handling an irate customer that will de-escalate the situation and prevent a power struggle from occurring. And unfortunately, unlike the National Geographic documentaries, tranquilizer guns are not involved.
Before we begin looking at the steps of handling an irate customer, we first must identify with one. Yes, we’ve all been that angry customer at some business. Think about it. Let’s try an experiment. I would like you to think of a time when you were upset with a business. You were the customer, and in some way, the business did not live up to your expectations or they did something that was just flat out wrong. Can you think of a time like this? It may have been at a restaurant, a store, the mechanics, over the phone with your cell phone provider, etc. (I’ve got a few experiences you can borrow if you’re struggling). OK, now that I’ve got you in a bad mood, I want you to think of two words or phrases that describe how you felt when you were dealing with that business or a particular employee at that business. Take a moment to write those on a piece of paper.
When you look at those words or phrases, they probably sound something like, “angry and upset”, or “ignored and helpless”, or “frustrated and homicidal”. Or maybe you wrote a phrase such as, “I had to ask for a supervisor just to get anything accomplished”, or “I had to repeat myself a thousand times just to get anyone’s attention and make them understand the situation”, or “I am now wanted in the state of California”. Whatever the words or phrases you wrote down, I’m sure they are not flattering to the business or to your state of mind at the time the problem occurred. Of course not! You were upset and no one seemed to understand you or want to fix the problem to your satisfaction.
Now, I would like to ask, did you think you were correct or right when you were dealing with that business? Quit nodding your head like that, you’ll give yourself whiplash. Of course you thought you were right; that’s what made you so upset.
Final question… do you still think you were right? Yep, that’s what I thought.
OK. After that brief experiment, you can now identify with the irate customer. The words or phrases an irate customer would choose when discussing their personal disputes with your company are most likely quite similar to the words or phrases you wrote down. They also thought they were right. And in all likelihood, they still think they were right, even if you showed them where they made an error. What is wrong with them?! Oh, the same thing that’s wrong with us! This is how most people respond in situations with a business when they don’t completely understand what happened, why certain things are rules of that business, or when they are not completely satisfied with what they thought should happen.
Let’s just recap a recent travel experience I had. Now, I have a few arguments with the current “liquid restrictions”, but I’m willing to go along with it. The real tragedy rests in the fact that I cannot be accompanied by my hair care products. It’s so lonely without my friends, Paul Mitchell and Kenra # 25. But I’m getting over it.