Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
With more consumer choice than ever before, our world is becoming increasingly customer focused. Successful companies are prioritising the value of soft skills. It’s all very well to have the technical or complex product knowledge, but if you are unable to communicate that knowledge effectively to your customer in a way that they feel cared about, the relationship is bound to go pear shaped.
With this in mind, service organisations that employ technical and other highly skilled staff are seeing themselves as customer service providers, emphasising the importance of customer service to their teams.
Even Google have realised that their most successful employees possess the soft skills, including communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view), and having empathy. During Project Oxygen in 2013, they analysed all the hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998, concluding that these soft skill qualities came in way ahead of science, technology, engineering and maths. In fact, the academic knowledge was least important.
In 2017 Google released another study, which confirmed their findings and further supported the importance of soft skills in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle revealed that the company’s most important and productive new ideas come from teams comprised of employees who weren’t the most technically skilled people in the room. It showed that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills, including equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of their teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list was emotional safety. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.
Like Google, many companies are moving into the Transformation economy, aiming to transform their customer’s lives rather than just delivering a transaction. In the pursuit for organisations to deliver improved customer experiences, and the desire to better understand what customers want so their lives can be transformed, it has become easier than ever before for customers to give feedback.
Customer feedback comes in all shapes and sizes and is not always positive. It’s easy to listen to glowing feedback from a happy customer who you get along with, but what happens when your customer is not so happy? How do you look after yourself while managing to successfully defuse your angry customer who is spewing verbal abuse at you?
Anyone who works in a customer service role will know it to be a very stressful working environment. Meeting the constant demand of customers can cause overwhelming stress, and complaints are reported as a major source of workplace stress. If not managed effectively, challenging customers can too easily take their toll on your personal well being.
So in the interests of maintaining your own well being, here are two ways to look after yourself while de-escalate your complaining customer.
- Emotion vs Logic:
The first thing to understand is that when your customer is highly emotionally charged, they are simply not being logical. It’s not natural for the brain to be emotional and logical at the same time. So while you are trying to find out the facts so you can get on and fix the problem, your customer may be stuck in their emotion unable to show any reason. Un-reasonable you might call them. That’s exactly what they are.
Once you can grasp this concept, it’s easier for you to understand where your customer is coming from and be able to manage your own feelings. It’s so easy to take it personally when it feels like your customer is blaming you. They could be angry with something you said or did, it could be a previous experience with your company that has compounded their feelings, or they could be under pressure in their own life or work. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t help you taking it personally because there will be no healthy resolution.
In that moment, imagine a glass dome drops from the ceiling and encases itself around you. On the front of the glass dome is the name of your company. The glass dome is protecting you from their emotions; they are simply bouncing off the glass unable to penetrate and hurt you. You are listening to them download without judgement or blame, while not absorbing their negative emotions. Once they have fully downloaded and their emotion has subsided, their logic will increase, and you will both be better equipped emotionally to resolve the issue. It’s now that you will be able to show genuine empathy for their situation and move on to a resolution.
- React vs Respond:
While you are listening to your customer downloading, make a conscious choice to respond rather than react. When you are in a reactive state, you are bringing our own experiences and emotions to the situation which then creates a story in your mind…that may not be the reality. When you are in this state, effective communication is not possible. To help you respond more effectively, become aware of your breathing. When you are faced with a stressful situation, your breathing can become confined to the chest, making it fast and shallow. Effective breathing to manage stress comes from the abdomen and is slow and deep. Close your eyes and think about a stressful customer interaction you’ve had recently. Put one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Which hand is rising more as you breathe? Next time you are faced with a difficult customer, be aware of breathing from your abdomen and you’ll be able to better manage your stressful customer.
By successfully managing your own well being, it will become much easier to show your challenging customers that you care. An unhappy customer who has been turned around will not only come back a much happier customer than before, but a stronger, more loyal relationship will develop. Like any relationship, the strength of your customer relationships depends on how well you have looked after them during the tough times.