You can help defuse a tense encounter, or at least not make it worse, by avoiding behaviors that trigger anger in customers. Here are some common triggers to avoid.
- Tone of voice: sarcastic, condescending, disbelieving
- Body language: looking away, looking at your watch, smirking, scoffing, rolling your eyes, drumming your fingers, invading personal space
- Other trigger actions: Long wait times (waiting to speak to a manager, long hold times, etc), hanging up on customers, passing the buck
Verbal triggers, and what to say or do instead
(Alternatives proposed below are guidelines, not scripts. Smart customers can see through scripts – be authentic, use your own words)
- You’re wrong.
It doesn’t help to tell customers that they’re wrong, even when they are. Just courteously state the facts, as supported by evidence. Let the facts speak for themselves.
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
People can see through this old trick. Say sorry only when you’re sorry. Even when the customer is not completely right, identify what could have been done better, and apologize for those mistakes.
- I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
May have caused? If an inconvenience was caused, apologize for it directly.
- That’s the policy … I can’t do that
"That’s contrary to our policy, but I know what you mean. Let me see what I can do."
- No way ... Not gonna happen ... That's impossible
"I tried to do that for another customer, but I really couldn't get it approved."
- That’s not my job.
It is your job. Take ownership of the problem.
- As I’d already said … As I’d said before
Just repeat or paraphrase what you had said, without saying you’d already said it.
- You have to . . .
"Would you please …"
- I don’t know.
- I assume . . . I guess
Get the facts. Don’t assume, don’t guess.
- You should have …
"In case this happens again, it might help you to …"
- Calm down.
These words often have the opposite effect. Practice calming techniques instead.
- I’m going to have to end this conversation … You must leave the building
This ought to be the last resort, but it’s too frequently thrown about by people who do not have the ability or the inclination to manage difficult situations. Should only be used when customers are truly dysfunctional.
Have a favorite trigger? Please share it here.