Know your audience.
This advice seems easy enough to follow and makes perfect sense, however it’s often easier said than done.
“While driving home I saw my mechanic on the side of the road crying like a little baby.”
“I don’t know exactly what happened but he must have had a serious breakdown.”
Telling a room full of professional technicians bad mechanic jokes probably won’t get you much of a reaction. At least not the reaction you are hoping for. It will likely be received as well as the internet company calling me ma’am repeatedly while trying to diagnose my connection issues.
Our generally hot and dry Midwest summer has decided to produce some pretty epic storms this past week. With Smokey Bear’s fire danger at a “Low”, I am itching to get outside, burn some yard waste and listen to some music that my neighbors likely won’t appreciate. I get all set up, place the speaker on the deck and open my music app on the tablet to connect.
No internet. I reset the routers and check the connection. Nothing. Check the outage map. It’s clear.
I mentally prepare myself to make what is promised to be a long and frustrating call to my internet provider.
After fifteen minutes I am finally connected to an agent that as expected has me perform the same diagnostics I have already done. With each “Ma’am” and every “Thank you for your patience” my irritation level grows.
I do not want to be spoken to as if I am the agent’s grandmother that demands formal addressment. I do not want to be thanked for waiting patiently when I have no other option. I do not want an apology for something that is clearly out of this persons control.
I want clear and precise information. I want action. I want a resolution. But mostly I want them to call me “Sari” and tell me the truth that they do not know what the issue is.
Irritated customers, or potentially future angry customers come in all shapes and sizes, all with different needs, communication styles, and expectations. Determining what type of customer personality you have on the other side is the first step to a successful interaction and a less than unpleasant path forward.
Who are they, what do they really want, and how do you figure out the best approach?
The Demander: The Demander is easy to spot within the first few moments. “Get me to a supervisor, NOW”, “You WILL cover this, that, the other, and everything else I feel is owed to me even your first born”, “Fix it and fix it INSTANTLY”.
While difficult to get a word in edgewise, this customer believes that a headstrong approach will get them want and get it faster. This customer will typically remain even keel and raise their voice. They will talk respectfully to you, but will always exude a condescending air. Your biggest obstacle will be pulling any sort of information that will help address the issue. Do not expect answers to questions they feel are unnecessary. They will not tell you if the truck only makes the noise when going uphill at a high speed in a sandstorm while pulling a one ton horse trailer. Just that it makes noise and its your problem to correct. Have no hope that they will let you know what color the light is flashing on the modem. Other than it being obvious they want a resolution, determining what will make them satisfied is like pulling teeth. They will ask for it all and then expect more.
Getting to the point of having a satisfied customer that will not rip you to shreds on the web is a difficult feat with this one. Nothing is ever enough, but standing firm with what you can do rather than what you can’t do is the key to saving face and solving the true issue presented.
The Screamer or The Cryer: A sniffle here, a raised voice there. The sounds of the onset of distress can be subtle. A quiver in the voice or quick change of tone can swiftly lead to a full on sob session or an ear piercing bellow that causes you to have to pull the phone from your head. Listen to not only what is being said, but also the ques that go unspoken.
While your approach must be different depending on which side of the emotional fence the customer is on, it must be remembered that emotions are running high. Actions and statements based on emotion do not come from actual fact but rather from frustration and lack of trust.
Always let this customer know that you are on their side, and have their best interest in mind. You are there to help and will remain communicative throughout the process. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to leave the customer in the dark. When they are not being updated they are assuming the worst. The next call will be full of more tears, or louder screaming that will likely escalate to name calling. Treat this conversation as if you are trying to make up with your emotionally unstable ex girlfriend.
The Future Best Friend: This is me, and my favorite distraught customer. They will have a pep in their step and an assertive approach. They will let you know exactly what the issue is and what you can do to make it right. They do not want formalities or for you to make promises you can not keep.
This customer is best addressed as if they are a long lost pal. Call them by their name, ask about the dog in the background. Build that bond. Friends are easier to work with than foes. It is easier to stay in contact with this customer type as they are generally pleasant to talk to and will work with you to come to an agreed upon conclusion. Maintain that communication, even if it’s not demanded or else you could potentially lose trust and create a “Demander”, allowing them to go from assertive to aggressive quickly. Loss of trust in a relationship is the key to a nasty break up.
The Jekyll and Hyde: You never know what you are going to get. You have the “Demander, Screamer/Cryer and Best Friend” all in one. They will email with ridiculous demands, put you and your company down and threaten legal action. However, when you get them on the line or are face to face they are even keeled, almost down right pleasant. Jekyll and Hyde require you to be flexible in your response, switching up your style just as quickly as their personality.
Be prepared to walk on egg-shells and never let your guard down. What you say to your best friend can easily be used against you when the challenger surfaces.
Good luck and stay alert.
While it takes skill and the ability to adjust quickly to differing customer styles, mastering this technique will provide a less rocky road to a resolution.
My piles of brush remain in heaps, the garden is still full of weeds. I did not make a new friend, but I do have internet services back.
Here’s to hoping for a dry, not so sweltering weekend upon us, and the ability to blast some good ol’ nineties jams. The neighbors may not be the best audience for this upcoming display, but at least they act like my BFF’s.