BrainTrust Query: When A Customer Freaks Out
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.
While waiting for a flight the other day, I watched a very stressed passenger freak out on an airline representative. The passenger’s behavior was embarrassing and completely unacceptable, and of course I couldn’t help but watch to see how the agent handled it.
Overall, she did a great job, but at the same time I saw things she could have done better. Here are a few tips to remember when it does happen.
1. Remain calm. Okay, as calm as you can. It is easier said than done, but getting aggravated just doubles the drama and pretty much guarantees things will get worse. Don’t take it personally. If the situation hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t even be involved.
2. Don’t blame the customer. The goal is to calm the customer and address the issue. When we inadvertently blame a customer for what happened they become more defensive. The customer might have messed up or doesn’t want to follow the policies, but making it about them will only make matters worse.
3. Say you’re sorry. Saying you’re sorry doesn’t mean that you or anyone in your store have done anything wrong. You’re simply expressing regret that the customer is upset.
4. Keep the focus on finding a resolution. As obvious as that sounds, it doesn’t always happen. Extremely upset people have a tendency to keep going back to the issue and reiterating how much they’re upset.
5. Bring in another person if it gets too personal. This poor agent wasn’t going to do anything to escape the customer’s wrath. When she finally realized that, she had another agent step in to handle the situation. At that moment, the passenger completely stopped freaking out. It was like someone had unplugged her. There might just be times when an owner or manager needs to ask an assistant or associate to work with the customer. I know that some owners/managers may not agree with that approach, but I’ve personally used it twice to bring resolution for a very unhappy customer.
6. Last but not least, don’t accept unacceptable behavior. I thought the agent showed great restraint with the customer, but she was probably pretty close to calling the airport police. If the customer crosses a line into unacceptable behavior, then you owe it to your staff, the other customers and yourself to remove the customer. Of course, if we do the first five thing listed here, that probably won’t have to happen.
Discussion Questions: What are some obvious and less obvious ways for retailer staffs to handle extremely irate customers? Are there any suggestions you would add to those in the article? Have you seen situations handled in a particularly good or poor manner?