Kill ’em with kindness. What to do when an irate customer stomps into your store? Here are seven ways to defuse angry people
IN RETAIL, IRATE CUSTOMERS are a fact of life and dealing well with them takes planning and practice. It also is important to understand that a mattress purchase is a stress-inducing task for many people. Look no further than the comments on Twitter or read recent media coverage about the difficulties inherent in mattress shopping. So, what to do when an angry customer stomps into your store?
1 Remain calm
When faced with a raging customer, do your best to remain calm and be genuinely kind. At all costs, resist the urge to fight back. Show concern for the customer’s feelings. Maintain a sincere and interested facial expression. Your voice, as well as your body language and expression, should communicate your attention. Maintain eye contact. How you speak to the angry customer is more important than what you say.
2 Speak slowly
If you speak slowly, softly and in measured tones–with sincerity–you can help defuse the other person’s anger. Interrupting will annoy an already-angry customer. Speaking quickly makes her think you’re covering something up.
3 What to say
Offer sympathetic comments such as “I understand how frustrating that must have been” or “Let me see what I can do to help.” Listening and responding to these needs calmly and emphatically can serve as the key to getting more cooperation from emotionally agitated people.
4 What not to say
Never say, “It’s not my job.” Even if you can’t solve the customer’s problem, gather the facts and tell her what you can and will do to help. Ask her how she’d like the problem to be solved. Sometimes, it’s as simple as bringing in a manager with more authority than you. Offer choices, if possible. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
5 Listen carefully
Give the angry customer some time to vent. In most cases, it will help her calm down. Don’t jump to conclusions about her problem. Listen carefully to find out what she is really angry about. It may not be obvious at first, even to her. Does she really want her money back on a purchase, or is she angry about a late home delivery or an unreturned phone call to your store? You may be able to soothe feelings and solve a problem, without incurring any expense to your store, other than the time required to do some empathetic listening.
6 Don’t play the blame game
Certainly, don’t blame the customer for her problem–but, also, don’t blame your store. Instead, use “I” statements, such as “Let me see what I can do to solve this problem for you.”
7 Step away
If your patience, empathy and offers to help fall on deaf ears, and the customer’s anger escalates, perhaps it’s time to step away. Extricate yourself by saying that you need to step away for some air because you don’t want to lose your cool or get upset.