How to deal with irate customers 101:

How many of us work or have worked in customer service? I started my people journey back at Wilson’s Leather in Duluth, Georgia years and years ago. I could sell a leather jacket in the Georgia summer with my eyes closed. Fast forward a few years and I am graduating with my first degree from the University of Georgia. What awesome job did my freshly graduated self land? Nope…. not what you (or I) thought!

Telemarketing. I literally would get on my knees in the bathroom and pray for a new job daily. I didn’t understand why I, a college graduate, didn’t get my dream job making $40K a year out of college? I spent most of the time partying but still…. where was it?

2.5 YEARS later, I am giving my 2 week notice to leave the telemarketing agency and took a job at a janitor supply store. Much better right? Through my journey of going forwards and backwards in my career I learned

1- customers are everywhere

2- customers pay the bills

So you see, customer service is important. Lets set the stage, shall we? A resident comes into your office screaming that they have bite marks all over them. They have a zip lock bag with them and they have inside, A BED BUG. Your next piece of information you will give is that they will have to pay to have it treated IMMEDIATELY, by a company you pick, and THEY HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. You can’t prove that the bedbugs are their fault, but it’s not yours so they have to pay $800 for the treatment, bag all their stuff, wash it, at their expense. You will not skip from A to C though, there is a B involved. The B is customer service, crazy person diffusion, irate individual counsel that will happen first. Here are 4 steps to get someone to stop screaming and calm down, listen, and NOT go online and write a bad review.

1- Let them talk

No one, I mean, NO ONE, likes to be interrupted. People are selfish 50% of the time and 90% of what what is on their mind is themselves. Don’t interrupt a yelling, upset, bed bug infested, customer. What you can do is EMPATHIZE, remove them from the center of everything where they are making a scene, and let them finish. The empathy is just to initially get them to move from where they are standing to where you need them to be, hidden.

2- Empathize

There is a difference between apologizing to and for something. You apologize when it’s your fault, well that’s another story… You don’t want to admit liability but you do want to let the customer know that you hear them and that you empathize with them. Make empathetic nods and noises while they rant. They will eventually stop and suddenly snap back in their body and realize that they are talking to a “friend”. That’s how you will make them feel.

3- Let them come up with their own solution

Let them work through it. You still need to listen, don’t interrupt, don’t talk about yourself or something that happened to you, and for the love of God do NOT invalidate their feelings or minimize it. Just don’t take responsibility!

4- Give them the bad news

Now they are ready to hear the bad news. They are tired, they have yelled, their adrenaline is wearing down, time to mic drop. “Gosh, I am so sorry this happened I hate that the cost of the treatment is so much! I am so sorry you have this problem do you have any idea where they came from? Well, unfortunately you will have to pay for it, BAD NEWS, but maybe we can work out an arrangement GOOD SOLUTION TO LESSEN THE BAD NEWS.

I hope this process has helped someone in their quest to deal with irate people in bad situations. If it hasn’t helped you yet, it will. Keep “playing in traffic” and a crazy is bound to erupt. Till next time….


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