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Stop, Listen, THEN Respond

Ok, so anybody can have a bad day, right?  I’m sure you may have encountered someone who’s been rude to you for some reason or another.  But, just because they’re directing their anger at you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about YOU.  This might seem like a strange statement, but when you are in the customer service business, it’s of the utmost importance.  We are always reaching above and beyond expectations when serving our customers’ wants and needs, and that includes not taking things personally.  

I am sure you’ve engaged with a customer who was difficult to deal with at one time or another.  They had some kind of complaint they wanted addressed immediately, and they directed their frustration or anger at you.  You were probably inclined to think they were mad at you, but they weren’t.   They were only expressing feelings that had nothing to do with you—and since you were the one “in front of them,” you had to bear the brunt of their frustration.  No matter the reason, it’s your job, as a customer service professional, to be as polite, generous and understanding as humanly possible.  

If you’re in this situation again, it might help to keep these three steps in mind:

  •  STOP

STOP - If you’re being approached in a way that seems unkind or rude, just STOP…if you wait before responding you have time to gather your thoughts and will avoid a “knee jerk” reaction.  Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the customer.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and be compassionate of their feelings.  Keep a cool head and try to determine what the customer really wants or needs.  If you can truly determine and satisfy their needs, you’ve done your job—it’s a win-win.  If you allow yourself to get angry or engage in an argument—it’s a lose-lose. 

LISTEN - If we allow ourselves to actually listen to what the customer is saying, we might be surprised to find out that they have a legitimate reason to be upset.  Listening gives them the opportunity to express their concerns without judgment from you.  Be sure to make eye contact and truly listen; if you’re too busy thinking about what you’re going to say next, you’ll miss important information that could help.  If your customer feels like they’ve been heard, they will likely become much more reasonable to deal with.  In some cases, the customer might realize there isn’t a solution, but knowing that you’ve listened and care about their problem might be enough to satisfy them. 

RESPOND - Waiting is hard to do, but it gives you a chance to think about your response and allows you to calm down, too, if necessary.  You’ll also have more information in front of you to formulate a knowledgeable response.  Your response should not only include whatever rules or policy that might apply, but also address the customer’s specific concerns.  If you skipped your first two steps, you won’t have all the information.  We can say all day long, “The policy says…”, but remember, that’s not what the customer wants to hear.  They want to know you’ve heard their side of the story, that you care and don’t consider them just “another number or sale”.  Does that mean you have to change your policy?  Of course not, unless it’s warranted.  It just means that you’ve heard them out – even when you stick to the policy. 

Now that you stopped and thought about the situation before reacting, and listened to what the customer had to say, you’re able to respond in a more helpful, appropriate way because you had more information in front of you.  Remember, information is knowledge and knowledge is power.  The more intelligent we are, the better we can respond with solutions and show our customers we care and understand their needs. 

Our customers, happy or not, are still our customers, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to provide them with the most excellent customer service possible.  Doing so makes them more likely to want to continue doing business with us.  By following these steps and providing customers with a better customer experience, we are doing our part to help create more loyal customers.

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