Some people just show up angry and you are not able to solve their problem and offer options or suggestions until they can actually hear what you are saying. You may work in a call center, be a server in restaurant or a nurse in the emergency room. Progress will not be made until the person with the problem, or who is in pain, physically or emotionally, understands you are trying to help them.
If you encounter these types of people or behaviours on a regular basis you can become hardened to someone’s pleas either out of self preservation or simply to stay objective. Its important to not loose sight of the fact that they are people that have a need that you can likely assist with. The key is to address their need without inflaming the situation.
How to neutralize and solve the problem:
1. Don’t deny or dismiss the customer/patient/person’s problem.
Their problem is real to them. In some cases, the “problem” isn’t actually the problem. They are issuing a call for help on a personal or emotional level and have a need to be noticed, heard and acknowledged. Sometimes they just need a little assistance to work through an issue and find a way forward. You may be the person that provides the help and makes their day better on a number of levels.
2. Show Empathy
Acknowledge the person’s anger, frustration, or disappointment. You don’t have to agree, just acknowledge. This lets them know they’ve been heard. Their request may be outrageous but you won’t even get close to “reasonable” if they don’t think you care. Comments from you like “oh no”, “gee, that’s unfortunate” or “I appreciate you sharing this with me” help move them, and you, towards a position where you can help.
3. Keep Your Promises
Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Don’t put them on perma-hold because they will get weary of your music and “we’re experiencing greater call volume than usual” messages real fast. Having them sitting in a waiting room and being ignored by the receptionist is not customer service either, it’s customer avoidance. If you say you must check with a supervisor and you’ll get back to them in 4 minutes, then get back to them in 4 minutes. Even if its only to tell them you’re still working on it and will they please be patient and give you a bit more time. People hate to feel like they’ve been forgotten.
Do these things only if you want to build trust and have a chance at turning the situation around and potentially getting a fan or advocate out the process. Oh yes, it can happen if you handle the situation correctly.
The angriest customer that is dealt with promptly, professionally and respectfully can end up working with you to find a solution and even become one of your most loyal customers and an advocate if they believe you genuinely cared and did the best you could.
Here’s a video from a presentation where I discussed how to turn around and leverage a difficult situation.