The holiday season is now underway with service excellence in the spotlight in a bigger way than all other times of the year. And one of the biggest challenges in providing excellent service is when things go wrong and those we serve become different people, sometimes horrible people.
With a little care and concern, service providers can heal the wounds of a bad situation. It is important to keep in mind that, as we said above, people under stress are not themselves and the best way to deal with it is to ride it out and let the chemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) get through their system. Getting into a fight because you’ve got to win is never, never a good idea.
Here are six tips for making these difficult situations a bit better.
- Shift Your Mindset: Take a moment to make a mental shift. There are many things that contribute to people’s reactions and most are not apparent and have nothing to do with the problem at hand. Take a deep breath and consider all of the challenges that the person might be having that have influenced their behavior (i.e traffic, family issues, money problems, work challenges, just a bad day, etc.). Remember, every difficult customer is an opportunity to solve a problem, build your skills, and help someone else find success.
- Give Space: Give customers the space they need to vent so they know they’re being heard. Give them your full attention, don’t interrupt, and when an opening appears, repeat back an abridged summary of their key points. This sometimes is as important as the resolution itself.
- Align: We all have different personalities, and the same goes for customers, so it is beneficial to adapt your response to their approach. If they are a controlling type, ask them what they think and let them lead. If they are more detail oriented, give them more information. If they want to be the center of attention, give them the stage and acknowledge their ideas.
- Apologize: Make a short, sweet, and sincere apology for the situation. Be careful not to over-apologize or ramble on, just show them you care. Something like, “I’m sorry this is happening” is usually enough.
- Be Transparent: For times where a solution isn’t clear, you must unfortunately be the bearer of bad news, just be honest, lying never helps. In situations where you don’t have a resolution just yet, be transparent, clear, and committed to resolving all the issues and provide a timeline when you anticipate the problem to be solved.
- Don’t Go It Alone: Don’t get in over your head, ask for help. Even though you’re the one dealing with the customer, for most people, there are other team members that can give you support. Never be afraid to ask for others to get involved.
Although these situations can be some of the most trying parts of providing service, they can be survived. With some forethought and practice, you can make even the most difficult moments better.