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How to Defuse the Worst Customer Situations
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How to Defuse the Worst Customer Situations


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Read this brief sponsored by GoToAssist to learn practical tips of defusing the worst customer support situations.

Read this brief sponsored by GoToAssist to learn practical tips of defusing the worst customer support situations.

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  • 1. The Customer Service Survival Kit: How to Defuse Even the Worst Customer SituationsWorst case customer scenarios are great. Why? Because if you manage a customer contact operation, thesetough customer situations truly hold the key to delivering excellent service all the time.You see, much of the indifferent service people experience from customer contact professionals springs fromfear. Contact professionals often react from a defensive posture because they worry that they will twisthelplessly in the wind when customers are angry, rude, demanding, or intimidating. And even when calls getescalated to a manager, they are often passed to someone as frightened and confused as they are.The solution? Teach people the same skills used by hostage negotiators, crisis counselors, and lawenforcement officials in their worst situations. Change the language you use in your most difficult customertransactions, and you and your team will have the tools to walk confidently into any customer situation. It ishere, in this zone of supreme confidence and competence, that great service takes root.Here is a quick summary of the skills to help you and your team learn to handle nearly any difficult customersituation:How to defuse criticism? Lean in to it!Customers arent usually angry because of your support. (That is a reason for frustration, not anger.) Theyare angry because they feel unheard. How do you fix this? "Lean in" to their anger and mirror their emotionsusing "wow" language: "Wow! That must have really held up your project! I can see why you are sofrustrated. Lets see what we can do here ..."Use the "ladder of acknowledgement".Most people dont know how to reallyacknowledge people -- instead, theyuse catch phrases like "I understand"(which usually brings forth theautomatic response "No, you dont"),or worse say nothing at all. Here arethe four rungs on “the ladder ofacknowledgement”: paraphrasing,observation, validation, andidentification.The Customer Service Survival Kit: How to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations Page 1
  • 2. Paraphrasing involves simply playing back your interpretation of the customers own words -- it tells acustomer, "I hear you." Observation takes a big step up and plays back what the customer is thinking andfeeling: "I can tell you are pretty frustrated about this." Validation, the next level, tells them that they alsohave a right to feel that way: "No one likes it when their system goes down." Finally, identification - which isnot the same as agreeing with someone - puts yourself in their shoes by sharing their feelings: "If thathappened to me, I would be pretty upset too."Deliver bad news using the "divide and conquer" technique.Most people simply dump bad news in the lap of a customer like a cold, dead fish. Instead, break thingsdown into stages. First, give a good introduction: walk them through the parameters of the situation,acknowledge them, or prepare them for the gravity of the situation. Second, give a proactive summary of thesituation: details open up dialogue and calm people down. Finally, respond empathetically to every customerconcern, every time you open your mouth.Turn problem-solving into solution-making.When it comes to the fun part of the transaction - solving the customers problem - our vocabulary is toooften limited to the phrases "yes we can" and "no we cant." And when it is the latter phrase, we usually feellike ducking for cover!Effective problem solving, particularly in difficult situations, involves three distinct steps: clarifying thecustomers needs, framing a solution around those needs, and then acknowledging and responding toobjections. Sound simple? All of these are 180 degrees from the usual response of setting boundaries anddefending them. Compare, "Sorry, there isnt much we can do about a hard drive crash" to "Lets look atsome options (backup, data recovery, etc.)" - even when these options are very limited - and see what adifferent reaction you get.Be immune to intimidation.What about those customers who simply grind at you until they get what they want? The right techniquescan turn this situation around as well. For example, when people talk about how important and entitled theyare, agree with them! When people try to criticize you to advance their position, use the time-honoredassertiveness technique of "fogging" to give their complaints credibility while sticking to your boundaries.("Youre right, there are many more experienced agents than me. I apologize that I still cant authorize arefund.") And finally, under react to threats. For example, when someone threatens to say bad things aboutyour company on Facebook, offer to help while telling them that you wouldnt dream of telling them what tosay or not say.These are just a few examples of how specific skills can be used to defuse critical support situations. Most ofwhich involve simply changing the words you use. Try them yourself, and see how much easier it is to resolveyour worst customer situations.The Customer Service Survival Kit: How to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations Page 2
  • 3. About the authorRich Gallagher is a former customer service executive and practicing psychotherapist who heads the Point ofContact Group. He is the author of several books including the #1 customer service bestseller What to Say toa Porcupine. His latest book The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even the WorstCustomer Situations examines how to handle your most difficult customer situations.About provides senior-level service and support professionals with direct access toinformation on customer support, including enterprise strategies, people issues, technology, trends andresearch. This data enables support professionals to benchmark and improve their customer supportoperation. More information can be found at GoToAssist provides easy-to-use cloud-based solutions that enable organizations of all sizes to connectwith customers, employees and machines online. With GoToAssist, IT professionals can deliver fast, secureremote support and monitor IT infrastructures from anywhere. GoToAssist Corporate offers a comprehensivesolution that enables multi-agent support organizations to resolve their customers’ technical issues. Builtspecifically for IT managers, consultants and managed service providers, GoToAssist Remote Support andMonitoring tools accommodate both individual users and teams. The preferred choice in remote support,GoToAssist is recognized as the worldwide market leader by IDC and ranked highest in customer satisfactionaccording to TSIA research.For a free trial of GoToAssist or to learn more, visit Customer Service Survival Kit: How to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations Page 3