October 4, 2017
Dealing with customers is one of the most stressful jobs around. Customers can be unpredictable, impatient and even downright rude at times. But it’s not entirely their fault. Overall, customers are fed up with receiving poor service practically everywhere they go. Often, they’re ready to take their frustrations out on you before you even pick up the phone or greet them. There are a number of reasons why customers get angry even when you are trying to be nice.
Your customers come to you with a history of negative service experiences. It doesn’t matter the industry, people are frustrated when they’ve had to stand in line too long. Many have gotten the run-around where they had to repeat their story multiple times before someone listened. For some, they’ve had situations where their service was never completed to their satisfaction. Customers have a lot of pent-up frustration. Even when you’re trying to be very helpful and nice, one negative phrase or word (“I’m sorry sir, we don’t do that in this department”) can set your customer off.
In this global marketplace, there are cultural and ethnic language barriers that will come into play. There are also speech barriers such as people who speak too quickly or, people who speak too softly. Some customers may be difficult to understand due to disabilities. You need to learn how to recognize these differences and adapt the way you communicate to make it easier for your customers to understand you. You can also ask your customers to slow down or repeat information without offending them. You simply use “I” language. For example, “Mr. Froemming, could you please repeat your last name for me more slowly so that I can be sure that I pronounce it correctly?”
What’s your most precious commodity? If you’re like most people, it’s probably time. When dealing with customers you need to keep in mind that one of their most valuable assets is time. Whenever customers feel that their time has been wasted, they view it as a disservice and loyalty actually decreases. So, it’s important to look for ways that you can speed up service and move things along, without making your customers feel rushed.
Exerting a little more effort to ensure clear communication early in the conversation can save time later on. Just like you, your customers are very busy people. That’s why it’s important to identify and remove communication barriers. Get together with your team and identify the barriers in your department or company that waste customers’ time. You’ll be amazed at what you find. It might be the way that the phone transfers are handled. Maybe the voice mail messages are too long or your website is too difficult for customers to navigate.
Phone systems create tremendous barriers for customers. Customers get offended when they hear a voice mail menu that has 15 options from which to choose. Then they have to listen to the whole thing to find out which button to push in order to speak to a live human being. When they finally get through, the service representative says, “I can’t help. I’ll need to transfer your call.” If you’re the person who handles that transferred call, you’re going to be dealing with an angry customer. Your first steps with that customer will need to address their frustration at getting caught in the voice mail nightmare. Even recorded messages can create problems. Martha Stewart stopped doing business with one of her financial agencies because she found their music to be too annoying when she was on hold. That’s pretty extreme, but you need to be aware that sometimes recorded messages or music can be offensive to your customers.
Personal Reasons and Fear
Sometimes your customers are just upset about something else when they call. Maybe they’re going through a difficult time with their marriage or they have a health concern. If you work in the healthcare or financial industry you will probably deal with more angry customers. Money and health issues create stress for people and are often accompanied by fear. So, let’s say you’re in the banking industry and you have a customer on the phone who’s upset because he received an overdraft notice for his checking account. He’s angry because according to his records he is not overdrawn. There’s an element of fear involved because it has to do with financial security. It’s important to understand that fear will often come across as anger.
These issues don’t only affect your external customers. The way that you interact and communicate with your co-workers profoundly impacts the relationships that your company has with its external customers. Keep in mind that your customers may have already had three or four really negative service experiences today alone. Show them empathy and understanding and they’ll come around because they’ll be relieved to be doing business with someone who cares.