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Talk given to Vangent Inc., July 19, 2011

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  1. 1. Dealing With Hostile Customers<br />Vangent Inc.<br />Rob Rouwenhorst, Ph.D.<br />July 19, 2011<br />
  2. 2. A brief history of Rob…<br />
  3. 3. Defining Moments<br />
  4. 4. Goals<br />Shorten the length of time you have to spend with angry customers<br />Reduce the intensity of their anger<br />Reduce the stress <br />
  5. 5. Why are People Angry<br />Lip Service to Customer Service (CS)<br />Lack of Investment in CS<br />Frustrated people tend to be more aggressive<br />Unreasonable expectations <br />Expect the worst when they call<br />
  6. 6. There is NO magic solution<br />Talk includes numerous techniques<br />Don’t memorize scripts and recite them<br />
  7. 7. Personality vs. Situational<br />Abusive customer behavior is situational<br />People choose their emotional states<br />You cannot control the emotions of another person<br />Control how you react to their anger<br />
  8. 8. Hostile Behavior<br />Put you off balance<br />Manipulate you<br />Demean you<br />Cause you to feel guilty<br />Intimidate you<br />
  9. 9. Verbal Abuse<br />Swearing<br />Yelling<br />Sexist/racist comments<br />Personal attacks<br />Threats (e.g. I’ll have you fired)<br />Accusations (e.g. calling you racist)<br />
  10. 10. Angry People<br />Adrenaline pumps<br />Emotions get high<br />Revert back to behavior learned earlier in life<br />
  11. 11. Reaction<br />Purpose of aggression is to control you<br />We want to remove rewards for the bad behavior in question<br />
  12. 12. Bait<br />Behaviors designed to get you to react in an emotional way<br />If you react, you hand control to the attacker<br />
  13. 13. Customer: What the hell is wrong with you …<br />Employee: Mr. Doe, you really sound upset about this<br />Customer: Damn right I’m upset. What are you going to about this?<br />Employee: I need some information from you so I can help. Can you give me your loan number?<br />
  14. 14. Do Not Respond Defensively<br />I only work here<br />I try the best I can<br />I am treating you fairly<br />I know what I’m doing<br />We don’t lose files<br />
  15. 15. Do Not Counter-Attack<br />You have no right to talk to me like that<br />You don’t know what you are talking about<br />I am going to hang up <br />It’s too bad your parents didn’t teach you manners<br />
  16. 16. Defensive behavior and counter-attacks are what the angry customer expects<br />They are natural responses, but almost always make things worse<br />
  17. 17. What Do They Want<br />Their problem fixed (which is unlikely since you can’t make their debt go away)<br />Want you to be helpful, even if you can’t solve their entire problem<br />
  18. 18. People Want Choices<br />“I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis is away from his desk. Can I take a message and he can call you back?”<br />“I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis is away from his desk. Would you like him to call you back at a particular time, or would you prefer to call again after 2pm when he is available?”<br />
  19. 19. Acknowledgement as Individuals<br />Each person feels their situation is unique and special<br />Acknowledging that a person is upset will help to calm them down<br />Common mistake is to ignore the feelings being expresses and shift into problem-solving <br />Customers perceive a move to problem-solving as uncaring and unfeeling<br />
  20. 20. Sense of Equality<br />We want to be treated as individuals<br />We don’t want to receive less than other customers<br />
  21. 21. Escalation<br />If the customer is not treated in a way that helps them feel important and listened to, the customer gets more abusive<br />Employee over-reacts, in turn increasing anger of caller<br />Tactics we discuss are for diffusing this early on<br />
  22. 22. CARP<br />Control<br />Acknowledge<br />Refocus<br />Problem Solving<br />
  23. 23. Control<br />Customer peppers you with questions or insults, talks over you, refuses to listen<br />Their attempt to control the interaction<br />
  24. 24. Acknowledge<br />Let the customer see you understand their emotional state and situation<br />Empathy & active listening<br />
  25. 25. Refocus<br />Transition from dealing with emotions to dealing with problem<br />Do NOT deal with the problem until dealt with the feelings first<br />
  26. 26. Problem Solving<br />Get information<br />Offer choices<br />Agree on course of action<br />
  27. 27. Principles of Defusing<br />
  28. 28. Deal with the Feelings First<br />Empathy<br />Acknowledge the person’s upset<br />
  29. 29. Avoid being a Bureaucrat<br />Avoid formal language<br />“It’s against our policy…”<br />“Let me explain how we usually do things. We ask that you…”<br />
  30. 30. Every Person/Situation is Different<br />Strive to control the interaction<br />Begin defusing early<br />Be assertive, not aggressive or passive<br />If you lose control of your emotions, you lose<br />
  31. 31. Every Person/Situation is Different<br />Don’t supply ammunition (e.g. sigh, mutter) <br />Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to<br />Avoid high risk, high gain behavior<br />Telling someone to be quiet or humor… great when they work but can backfire<br />
  32. 32. Avoid Losing Your Cool<br />Identify your triggers<br />Slow down your response<br />Positive self-talk<br />Put on their shoes<br />
  33. 33. Use Cooperative Language<br />Instead of “We always send out this information to customers”<br />“We usually send out this information…”<br />“It’s odd you didn’t receive the information”(invites discussion without pinning responsibility on customer)<br />“Perhapsit’s just gotten lost somewhere” (perhaps is another less absolute word)<br />
  34. 34. The Use of “We”<br />“We” suggests cooperation<br />But don’t overdo<br />“I guess we’d better take a look at that”<br />“Let’s see what we can do about that”<br />
  35. 35. Avoid Contentious Words & Phrases<br />Customer: You wouldn’t treat me this way if I wasn’t green, you just don’t like green people<br />Employee: Your race doesn’t affect how I treat you. We deal with lots of green people here<br />Employee : Your BACKGROUND doesn’t affect how I treat you. We deal with people from EVERY WALK OF LIFE<br />
  36. 36. Contentious Words & Phrases<br />Ethnic background<br />Blame (if you paid attention, obviously you haven’t)<br />Absolutes (always, never)<br />Suggest helplessness (there is nothing I can do)<br />Suggest disinterest (I’m not interested in, that has nothing to do with)<br />
  37. 37. I can’t<br />We always<br />You must have<br />You can’t<br />Don’t<br />You’re wrong<br />I don’t think I can<br />We try to<br />Is it possible that<br />I don’t think that is going to help you<br />It might be better if you<br />Is it possible that<br />
  38. 38. Questions<br />“Do you know how fast your were going?”<br />Less likely to provoke a person vs. a statement<br />Allows officer to assess your state<br />Asserts control over the interaction<br />
  39. 39. The When Question<br />Customer: You don’t give a damn about me. You have some nerve telling me I can’t…<br />Employee: When did you start thinking that we aren’t concerned with your situation?<br />
  40. 40. Person expects defense (I / we statements) or counterattack (you)<br />If they respond to your question, you have gained control of the interaction<br />When did you start feeling (or thinking) that [rephrase a part of what the person said in a non-inflammatory way]<br />
  41. 41. Topic Grab<br />Taking something the person has said, commenting or asking a question about it<br />Temporarily distracts and returns the conversation to a more calm tone<br />
  42. 42. Example<br />Customer: What the hell do you expect me to do now. What kind of idiot are you? I have a family to support. The bank is going to take my home. How am I supposed to feed my kids, what are they…<br />Employee: It must be frustrating Mr. Smith. How old are the kids?<br />
  43. 43. Customer: Umm 5 and 7. Why do you ask?<br />Employee: Well I have kids around that age too. I know how difficult it is to worry about them. Let me explain what you can do, so at least you will know your options.<br />Customer: It isn’t fair<br />Employee: Some people think it is unfair. Let me explain what you can do next, OK?<br />
  44. 44. Broken Record<br />Client not paying attention<br />Repeat 1 or 2 short sentences until the person starts to hear you<br />Choose language that shows you are willing to help and that you are concerned<br />
  45. 45. Customer: [talks on and on]<br />Employee: Mr. Smith, it is frustrating. Let me explain what you can do<br />Customer : [talks on and on]<br />Employee : I know you’re frustrated. Let me explain what you can do<br />Customer : [talks on and on]<br />Employee : It’s frustrating. Can I explain what you might do next?<br />
  46. 46. Customer: Damn right it’s frustrating.<br />Employee: It is. What you might do next is…<br />
  47. 47. Silence<br />When the customer asks if you are still there it provides an opportunity to reassert control<br />Acknowledge customer’s feelings<br />
  48. 48. Customer: Why are people so inefficient? I called the bank six times and each time I get told the same thing… what’s wrong with them… I am sick and tired…<br />Employee: [Says nothing, making sure not to say words like “yes” or “uh huh”]<br />Customer : Hello, are you still there?<br />Employee : Yes, and I know you are frustrated. I will help you if you give me your name.<br />
  49. 49. Customer: It’s Mr. Smith<br />Employee: Thank you Mr. Smith. Now, if I understand, you are upset because you… Can I ask you a few questions to help us get to the bottom of this?<br />Customer: OK<br />
  50. 50. Allow Venting<br />If you constantly interrupt the message you are sending is you aren’t listening<br />When they start to wind down acknowledge their feelings to prove you are paying attention<br />Then refocus and problem-solve<br />
  51. 51. Acknowledgment<br />
  52. 52. Empathy Statements<br />Show employee understands the situation<br />Nothing to show that employee agrees with the customer<br />
  53. 53. Examples<br />It must be frustrating. It sounds like you’re pretty annoyed<br />You must feel like you’re getting the run around<br />It must be pretty difficult to make ends meet<br />It must seem like these things take forever<br />
  54. 54. Avoid “I”<br />Focuses the feelings on you<br />Run the risk of providing ammunition<br />Employee: “I understand how frustrating this is for you”<br />Customer: “How could you possibly understand?”<br />
  55. 55. Do not use the word “but”<br />I realize you’ve been waiting a long time, but all these people were in front of you<br />I realize you’ve been waiting a long time. [pause] There are a number of other people who have been here quite a while.<br />
  56. 56. Referring to Supervisor<br />Tend to treat people who we think have status and power with more respect<br />Who says it often makes a difference<br />Far more powerful if you offer it rather than waiting for customer to demand it<br />
  57. 57. Disengaging<br />Short time only!<br />Consult a colleague<br />Consult with supervisor<br />Check policy or laws<br />Check file/computer<br />
  58. 58. Listening Responses<br />Proves you are listening<br />Helps clarify the situation<br />So, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that … Is that correct?<br />I want to make sure I understand. Are you saying that …<br />
  59. 59. Problem Solving<br />
  60. 60. Steps<br />Define the customer’s problem<br />State your own requirements/ limitations<br />Share information<br />Explore alternatives<br />Agree on course of action<br />Follow-thru<br />
  61. 61. Define the Problem<br />Identify the root cause<br />Must be calm enough to focus on the problem and to listen<br />If not, control-acknowledge-refocus<br />
  62. 62. Provide Information<br />Customer needs to know:<br />What you can and can’t do<br />Why you can’t do what is desired<br />Benefits of rules and procedures<br />
  63. 63. Helpful Phrases<br />“Sir, let me explain what I can and cannot do for you”<br />“Were you aware that our job is to ___”<br />“Perhaps nobody has taken the time to explain the situation to you. Let me try”<br />
  64. 64. Create Agreement<br />Ask questions guaranteed to get agreement<br />“I’m sure you want to settle this as quickly as possible, right?”<br />“I agree that the process seems to take a long time. I am sure you would agree that your priority is to get this fixed.”<br />
  65. 65. Offer Alternatives<br />Offer suggestions about what you can do, in addition to what the client can do<br />
  66. 66. Follow-Thru<br />Don’t make promises you can’t keep<br />
  67. 67. Setting Limits<br />
  68. 68. Assertive Limit Setting<br />Decide based on:<br />Failure of gentler defusing techniques<br />The person’s behavior<br />
  69. 69. Limit Setting<br />Define behaviors that are unacceptable<br />A request (implied) to change those behaviors<br />Indicate consequences<br />Question that gives the customer a choice<br />
  70. 70. “Sir, if you continue to swear and yell, we will have to end our conversation. Would you prefer to continue or stop?”<br />
  71. 71. “Would you like to continue or stop now? It is up to you whether we continue. We can continue if you stop [behavior], or you can call some other time.”<br />
  72. 72. Enforcing Limits<br />Reference the limits previously stated<br />A request to comply with the consequence<br />An offer for further help<br />
  73. 73. “Sir, I explained to you that I won’t continue this conversation if you continued to yell. I am ending this discussion now, but you are welcome to call back some other time.”<br />
  74. 74. Don’t say, “You are welcome to call back when you calm down.”<br />
  75. 75. Wrap<br />Questions?<br /><br />Twitter: @robrouwenhorst<br />
  76. 76. Customer Happiness<br />
  77. 77. Seven Drivers of Customer Happiness<br />Know me, remember me… since I know a lot about you!<br />Give me choices… that make sense for me<br />Help me be better, do more… and become part of my fabric<br />Don’t bother me… with spurious stuff<br />Surprise me… I can’t imagine all that’s out there<br />Listen to me… I have a bunch of good ideas, too<br />Make it easy for me… to do business with you<br />
  78. 78. 1. Know me, remember me - Amazon<br />“personalized” intro, with relevant <br />recommendations based on past searches, <br />purchases, and “customers like me”<br />easy access to my Cart, <br />my Account, and Help<br />
  79. 79. 1. Know me, remember me - Ritz-Carlton <br />Three Steps Of Service<br /><ul><li>A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest's name.
  80. 80. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest's needs.
  81. 81. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest's name.</li></ul>From: “Gold Standards” in<br />
  82. 82. 2. Give me choices - Netflix <br />
  83. 83. 2. Give me choices - “click to call”<br />customer lands on “high <br />value page”, “dwells” too <br />long in Help, or at checkout<br />... and is stuck <br />but he gets box inviting him to get call from CS <br />immediately or when it’s convenient for him <br />system sends web log data to agent, skipping general “how can I help you<br />--> shorter handle time + higher conversion rate + more satisfied customers<br />
  84. 84. 2. Give me choices - Esurance tagline<br />
  85. 85. 3. Help me be better, do more - German Autobahn<br />In case of accidents, <br />weather problems,<br />general congestion …<br /><ul><li>turns on radio
  86. 86. plays over radio or CD
  87. 87. provides warnings ahead of next exit
  88. 88. explains reasons
  89. 89. reassures drivers</li></li></ul><li>4. Don’t bother me - eliminate dumb contacts<br />
  90. 90. 5. Surprise me - respond and act<br /><ul><li>Upset or “irate” customers are like the turtle on its shell – they cannot fix the situation (turn over)
  91. 91. The role of the person handling upset customers is to take extra time (again) to fix the situation, thus “flipping the turtle”
  92. 92. Then, if the customer resumes buying, they are CPR (customer permanently retained)</li></li></ul><li>5. Surprise me - “down selling”<br />“Down selling is telling the buyer that the item he/she want to buy is inappropriate. For example, informs customers if they are buying flower bulbs during the wrong season or for the wrong geographic area.  Naturally, they then suggest alternate products that are better suited for the customer.   <br />Up selling and cross selling increase revenue.  Down selling increases revenue because a happy customer will return and tell others about his/her good experience.  Down selling also reduces the cost of returns.  Up selling, cross selling and down selling should be done on the Internet, call center, in person and any other way you sell.”<br />From: “Best Practices CRM”, in; <br />bold added for emphasis<br />
  93. 93. 6. Listen to me - Amazon<br />
  94. 94. 6. Listen to me - Amazon<br />Then, send<br />email to customer when it’s available for (pre)order - “wow, you remembered!”<br />
  95. 95. 7. Make it easy for me - Amazon <br />
  96. 96. 7. Make it easy for me - Netflix<br />
  97. 97. Best Service(Challenge Customer Demand for Service)<br />
  98. 98. Wrap<br />Questions?<br /><br />Twitter: @robrouwenhorst<br />
  99. 99. Angry Customers & CustomerHappiness, Sources and Inspirations<br />Bacal, Stop Angry, Hostile Customers Cold; CreateSpace, 2011<br />Dixon, Freeman & Toman, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”; HBR, July-August 2010<br />Fornell, The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference; Palgrave MacMillan, 2007<br />Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness; Alfred A. Knopf, 2006<br />Good Experience; (old blog led by Mark Hurst)<br />Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose; Business Plus, 2010<br />Peters, The Pursuit of Wow! Every Person's Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times; Vintage, 1994<br />Price & Jaffe, The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers From Customer Service, Control Costs and Keep Them Happy; Wiley/Jossey-Bass, 2008<br />