Most clients don't have a problem with you as an individual, they have a problem with the company. Learn how to deal with such clients without getting involved emotionally.
First step in remaining in control, is to stay calm. As a child I remember my parents always told me to count to ten before I react to anything. Boy is there truth in this saying! Whether the person is right or wrong, this delay in reacting gives you time to calm down and assess the situation. Visualize a beach with a sunset while the customer is shouting – it helps! Fighting fire with fire and responding aggressively simply does not work!
We have two eyes and ears so that we look and listen twice as much as we say – at least that's how another old saying goes. Remember, the customer has pent up energy he/she needs to get rid off. If you don't allow them to vent, the aggression remains. Usually, if you allow them to release all this anger, they calm down pretty quickly and become more approachable. Even if they are in the wrong, or completely absurd, let them finish their rant. Interrupting them will only make it worse. By listening, it also gives you a chance to assess their state of mind and whether they have a case or not. Anger can be caused by someone else's mistake, misinformation and even misunderstandings due to cultural differences. If you immediately go on the defense, you throw fuel on the fire. Rather than focus on the issue, ask questions around it and try ascertain what went wrong. Thus you diffuse the anger and show the customer that you are not resistant to his/her complaint. Very important, always respond in a slower and lower tone of voice. You want your voice to sooth and calm the customer. Often people have not read the fine print, or in fact any print and have their own preconceived, unrealistic expectations that is ultimately the root cause of the anger. When something is unclear I never question the customers' logic or character – this will only make things worse! However I do ask what it is that they expected – but never in a flippant way, but rather in a clam, collected and caring question, “Sir / Madam, what is it that you expected?” When they answer this question, it usually gives you the answer you seek, i.e. someone messed up, the client is ignorant, unrealistic, or selfish.
Now either assist them in solving their problem, or if they do have unrealistic expectations, you can calmly take out the advert, service agreement, and brochure and show them that they are in the wrong. Be honest, have you bought items and services on the Internet and simply clicked the 'I agree' box for the terms and conditions without reading them? We all do it! Hence you not only need to know your product inside out, but also everything about the Consumer Protection Act. Let me share an example. Tourists buy a holiday in Europe, but are elderly and unstable on their feet. The marketing brochure clearly explains that every tour consists of at least 2 hours walking and that cobblestones are present in all the towns. If they guest shouts and complains that he/she was misinformed, then you are in your full right to calmly ask them for their brochure and show them in a polite manner exactly what the description says. Case closed! However, if that was omitted from the marketing and pre-holiday information packet – then you need to find an alternative solution.
Don't take it personally!
This is without a doubt the most difficult emotion to control, at least it was for me. The more you encounter rude people, the easier it becomes to deal with them. As they vent their emotions and scream and shout, just keep thinking to yourself, “This is not about me, I haven't done anything wrong.” Keep repeating this to yourself. I definitely don't believe that the customer is always right – there are definitely rude, nasty and manipulative people out there. Hence it is vitally important to learn to clearly differentiate between someone ranting and raving about the company, product or service, and someone becoming personally defamatory to you as an individual. If they are indeed shouting about being misinformed, wrong expectations or actual bad service – let them get it off their chest. Recently a friend in the nursing profession gave me one of the best ways to handle a person like this. I now use this as my 'go to' method. I let the customer finish and then I reply, “Sir / Madam, why don't we reverse rolls. Imagine I am you and you are me right now – what would you do in my situation?” This is incredibly powerful as now this rude person has to look at him/herself through your eyes! Works like a charm most of the time. For those remaining extreme cases where someone does become 'personal' and insults you as an individual, you are in your full right to stop that person immediately and clearly inform them that they have crossed the line and owe you an immediate apology, otherwise you will no longer attend to them. It does help if you have witnesses, but this is not always the case. You are in your full right to stop the individual, but always in a calm, slow and quite voice, and explain that their grievance has nothing to do with you and that they have now crossed the line. At this point I inform them that they have two choices.
1.) Apologize for personally defaming you and then explain that you are more than prepared to work through the issue together.
2.) Refuse to assist them until they apologize and immediately report the situation to a supervisor.
Personal Coping Mechanism for You
If you are an emotional person like me, nasty people can really hurt you and break you down, so it is vital to have coping mechanisms to get over this emotional distress as soon as possible.
Breathe and calm down
Once it is all over you need to take a break and clear your head. Whether you simply wash your face with cold water, or go for a short walk – you need to give yourself time to unwind and cool down!
No matter how rude, or annoying the customer is, never vent or complain to coworkers, family and friends. Although this may seem like a reasonable solution to you, it will alienate those around you and damage your relationships with these people. That is definitely not worth it. Rather, focus on thinking positive thoughts and feel good about yourself for having dealt with and survived the situation without stooping to the nasty person's level. There is a great saying I always remind myself of, “When arguing with a fool, make sure you are not that fool!” Makes you think, huh? I come back yet again to knowing your product, rules and regulations.
By all means go over the situation in your mind and clarify the 'facts'.
This helps in realizing that you simply got caught in a crossfire of misunderstanding, a genuine complaint or simply just a rude person. Furthermore it helps you asses whether you could have done anything differently and therefore be more prepared in the future should this happen again. It is only once you have gone through an experience like this, analyzed how you coped with it and taken the situation apart that you can improve and streamline the process for the future. I continually think I have seen and experienced it all, but sadly fools have more experience and practice than me, so they always find a new way to create a scene – however, me remaining calm and objective and analyzing everything afterwards, ensures that I improve my coping techniques and ways to diffusing such situations.
© 2019 Zoenchii
Kaicie-Mai on September 24, 2019:
this is really helpful =)