I was scrolling through Facebook when a specific post made me pause (and consequently write this piece).
It wasn’t one of the advertisement videos for a black mask that rips your pores clear off your face or the tenth gender reveal cake I’ve seen this summer.
Instead, it was a retail business owner posing a question about what to do when a “customer gets heated up” and “nasty.”
After I read the question, I immediately launched into Certified Business Coach mode. While I was thinking about how to respond, my mind shifted to that of the customer and how I have, at times (probably too many to count), been that “nasty” customer. Yikes!
In thinking about that, I realized the problem within your business happens far before the customer gets heated. Perhaps instead of asking how to deal with the customer, analyzing what got them to that point is time better served.
Three Valid Reasons Why Customers Get “Nasty” with You:
- You didn’t deliver on your promise. Probably the most popular reason for customer blow-ups is the company making some sort of mistake. Keeping with the retail theme, you send the wrong size, you never ship the order, the order is delivered past the promised date, you bothered them too much while they were shopping in your store, what you sold them was defective…the list could be endless. Regardless, the customer has expectations, and you usually set them. Hello, Old Navy! Your email said my package was arriving yesterday, but it never did. Now I’m on a 6AM flight sans specific outfits I was planning on because you told me the date they would be delivered AND I paid extra for expedited delivery. Say what?! Yes, I know sometimes things are out of your control, like a pesky snowstorm that shuts down UPS. But, most customers will understand that. What they won’t understand are standard levels of service being unmet for no good reason.
- You tell them what they did wrong. This is my trigger point. I loathe it when a customer service representative tells me everything I did wrong. Um, I sent you money that essentially provides you a paycheck, and I’m in the wrong? I may have done something that doesn’t follow your standard procedures or protocols, but does that really put me in the wrong? I don’t think so. Often, businesses get so caught up in how they do business that they don’t see the customer’s perspective or, worse yet, they assume the customer knows exactly how they want them to do something. A customer is not inside your business; they are the reason you have a business. Don’t tell them they did something wrong according to you. Just fix the problem.
- You fail to hear. Just like a screaming kid or an angry spouse, the underlying cause is usually not feeling heard. Your customer is boiling over because the person responding to them has no empathy and isn’t really hearing what they’re saying. Before you go interjecting or solving the problem, make sure the customer says all they need to. Let them be heard, and you’ll prevent them from elevating their negative attitude status.
Okay, so maybe it’s never valid to be nasty, but there is validity in getting upset when any of these three situations occur. All businesses have customers; therefore, you’re in the business to serve. If you don’t see it that way, close up shop. Please!!
To answer the original poster’s question, what can you do when a customer gets heated? It’s the best lesson I ever learned from my mentor, Jeffrey Gitomer: “Tell them what you CAN do, not what you can’t do.” That little nugget is gold and will almost always prevent any customer from reaching nasty status.
Finally, some people are just blank-holes, and I can’t help you fix that. If I could, I’d be retired on a beach by now. Cheers!