How to Stand Strong with Pushy Customers

By: Julie Crisara

In the home contracting field, you will experience what I like to to call “service terrorists”. Yes, it sounds harsh, but these folks are extremely disgruntled customers- for whatever reason- who can disrupt your day, get in your face, and make experience a temporary loss of self esteem.

You don’t have to let this happen, there are ways of maintaining a sense of control and balance during even the most trying and emotionally reactive customer service call. Unfortunately, it can be the one bad customer interaction, especially where you feel that you dropped the ball, that you’ll remember and will bother you, after you’ve had 1,000 good ones. That’s why I am presenting to you this list of 7 tools which will aid you greatly in keeping your heading and a sense of control when dealing with highly emotional, angry, out of control customers.

Use Pure Listening

Often, as a home contracting professional, we want to jump in and fix the problem before we’ve even heard the customer’s whole speech. Maybe we assume something about a customer’s issue and jump to a conclusion. Or we decide that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Or, we say to ourselves “I’ve heard this one before.” Let them speak first and listen completely. Have no filters in your listening. Offer no resistance. Actively listen but don’t say a word, except the briefest acknowledgment that you’re actually on the line. Let them say everything they want to get off their chest, and then create a time buffer between them speaking and you speaking, so it doesn’t feel like you had your answer anxiously waiting to go.

A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and show them some empathy. That means understanding what they’re going through, which is different from sympathy, which means that you think it’s horribly sad and you feel really sorry for them, which is going too far. Whatever the situation or the complaint is, it’s important to really understand what they’re going through. Actively show your contracting customer understanding, which you can do by asking questions to make sure you thoroughly comprehend . Summarize back to the customer what they told you. Say things like “Tell me more about that, what happened exactly?” Don’t repeat the customer’s exact words back to them like a parrot, but use your own words to rephrase it. People enjoy parrots as pets but not as trusted home service providers. You listening and empathizing is a way to show them that respect.

Low and Slow Wins the Game

When speaking to an upset or aggressive customer, lower your voice and slow down your speech. Customer service reps, even in our fields of electrical, plumbing and HVAC, are usually taught to be very chipper and upbeat. You don’t want to sound like you’re smiling and laughing when speaking to an angry customer who has a complaint. Go from the “fun room” to the “serious room” and don’t sound like you’re having a great day when they’re not.

Picture Your Audience

A very good way to make sure that your words don’t get too out of control when speaking with a hot-headed, angry customer is to pretend that you’re speaking to a crowd on stage. If you were doing a public presentation, there are some things you wouldn’t say. You would stay appropriate and you wouldn’t get angry even if, during the Q&A session, someone asked you pointed, even belligerent questions. Or, imagine your call is being recorded to be used as an example by your company for training, or in a large business seminar. And remember, when it comes to giving away things to “make it right” with an irate customer, and making promises, if you’re going to give away or promise it to this person, can you give away or promise it to everyone else? Probably not. So be firm and protect your company’s bottom line while also giving the customer a sense of being heard and of having their issue rectified.

Be Wrong to Be Right

You can turn around a problem customer by agreeing with them so much that you go beyond what they even think. Agree with them so much that they drop their attitude of frustration. “You’re absolutely right, Mrs. Miller, and in fact zero of that kind of behavior is ever acceptable. I’m really glad you told me because we do not allow that at XYZ Home Contracting and I need to know about it if it ever happens. I’m also going to make sure that your issue is absolutely taken care of.” Think of it like psychological judo. Instead of offering resistance, which is only going to make the customer more angry and forceful, us the momentum of their argument in your emotional favor by winning them over with an unexpectedly large amount of agreement. Tell them that you want to also use this as a training or educational moment for your fellow employees. If you play your cards right, some of today’s most difficult customers will be tomorrow’s best customers.

Maintain Emotional Control

Put simply, if the customer is going crazy we cannot. We need to really be in control, which especially means never yelling at a customer or having emotional outbursts. With today’s social media, the effects of such could be extra disastrous. I always try to give my friendship unconditionally to my customer and think of them like a young child. When a young child cries you might want to yell, but he or she probably just wants a hug and that would calm them down. So give your customer a verbal hug, which shows that you care enough. When you get angry, you’re starting to make the problem about yourself and the problem’s not about you, it’s about the customer’s needs and expectations and the service your home contracting company provided. Usually when a customer calls to complain, they will return to your business if you handle them and their problem well.

Take It Professional, Not Personal

Taking it personally is telling the customer that YOU are the one being harmed or damaged, and it is by what they are saying. The customer doesn’t know you, has probably never seen you and probably would be quite nice and polite if you met them in any other situation. But they’re calling in a state of agitation and frustration because of a thing that is inconveniencing their lives and making them feel ripped off, and to them you’re just a part of the machinery that has done them wrong. To be an exemplary customer service professional in the home contracting industry, you have to release your need to be accepted by people. The only person who should be judging whether you’re doing a good job or not is YOU, looking in the mirror. When I handle customers for my home contracting business, I’m going to give you value whether you’re angry at me or not. If you remain in a frame of mind of not taking it personally at all when handling an angry customer, you might even get a quiet “Thank you” at the end of the call.

For more tips like these, attend the next Total Immersion Service Sales Summit in Los Angeles or live streaming online.

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