We have all had the displeasure of having to deal with a difficult client. In the moment it can be stressful and very hard to empathize. But if you can cultivate the ability to reduce anger and understand the client’s issue, and if you are properly prepared, you can find yourself capable of de-escalating the vast majority of situations involving a difficult customer.
Be Prepared to De-Escalate
Because de-escalation goes against most people’s initial reaction — much of the time you want to meet anger with a similar response — it’s best to essentially train yourself so that your knee jerk reaction is to automatically placate rather than participate in someone else’s anger. This means preparation, and it means learning these things:
· Understand the full scope of assistance you are capable of providing to upset customers
· Carry a commanding understanding of your job. And when reasonable, the jobs associated with issues you frequently troubleshoot
· Learn how to identify situations that are outside of your comfort zone, or beyond your ability to handle so that you can refer an upset customer to someone with more experience or authority
While conflict avoidance is always preferred, it’s not always possible. Once an irate client has reachout out to you they’ve already begin to escalate all on their own, making it nearly impossible to simply nip the problem in the bud.
From here, you need to know how to gently halt the momentum of their frustration, to channel it into more productive problem solving, and then you need to work with the client toward a satisfactory resolution. Because no person is, realistically, going to memorize some “Five Steps to Success” style de-escalation model, simply use these tools instead:
· Allow the customer a moment to vent - Most angry people just want to be heard, and for their issues to be taken seriously. They might be shouty, they may attempt intimidation, or they could even be whiny. By providing an empathetic channel and cutting in with a compassionate line, you immediately take the aggressive wind out of his or her sails so that you can move on to finding a productive solution.
· Respond with positivity - Provided that the customer’s complaint is at least somewhat reasonable, go ahead and let them know that they’re right. If indeed the fault is with your company, validate their frustration so that they know they are being heard and that you can help them.
· Offer and confirm a solution - If you’re able to offer the solution then give it to them! Before you make any changes on your own, however, be sure to confirm the solution with the client in order to ensure it’s satisfactory. Making assumptions when you’ve just put the time in to reduce their anger can undo all of the progress you’ve made.
As an important sidenote, it is very important to allow an angry customer some time to vent. But, do not allow a customer the chance to be verbally abusive. You are there to help, not to be a punching bag. Sometimes you might deal with a customer that just cannot be placated, and this is fine. It happens! Just know who you can refer them to, and avoid doing anything to make the situation harder for whoever has to deal with the client next.