Being the Calm in the Storm

Related imageHave you ever been in a situation where you felt like a service provider had no empathy at all?  I’m sure you have, it happens all the time.  Think about the number of times you’ve been on one of those dreaded Help Desk calls and the dull, monotone voice on the other end gives the impression that you are being ridiculous about such a minor issue.  It happens with mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and myriad other services.  The tone of voice and body language seem to say, “This isn’t that big of a deal, relax.”

This lack of empathy is largely a product of familiarity.  You see, as customers, we see many of the problems with things only once in a lifetime whereas professionals see them every day.  For example, when I go to the dentist and he says I have some issue that needs to be addressed, the nonchalant way he says it makes me think “I have to have all of my teeth yanked out but to you it’s just another day at the office.”  His initial language sounds so ominously serious and sets off a chain reaction of assumptions, rapid heartbeat, and worry.  Of course, once he slows down and explains it all in baby language, I calm down.

Think about your line of work, how many things do you see every day that customers rarely if ever see?  How many times have you dealt with someone freaking out over something that you know is not a big deal?  Why are they going crazy?  It’s not the end of the world and can be repaired.  We do it a lot more than you might think and it sends a horrible message to customers that they are overreacting, being childish, etc.

How do we change this? We need to be mindful that our world and the world of our customers are very different.  We, as professionals in our line of work, have a vantage point that is very different than that of our customers.  We see things they never do or maybe do once in their lives.  What to us is minor may, on first look to a customer, seem disastrous.  Being ever mindful of this and putting ourselves in their shoes can change the game.  Use of some honest language to communicate understanding and provide comfort can go a long way:  “I understand how you feel.  I know this looks bad but I’ve seen it many times and it can be fixed.  I want to help you and make it right.”  Talk like this can provide calm in what to a customer looks like a devastating storm.

Here are three steps for being the calm in the storm:

  1. See the customer not as someone overreacting but as a person who is fearful because they’ve never seen this problem before or may have had a bad experience with it before.
  2. Realize that although you’ve seen it many times, you need to show understanding, not superiority.
  3. Communicate your understanding and share that you’ve seen it before and you have options for making it better.
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