When customers misbehave, it becomes paramount to focus on and fix “the problem” and not attempt to fix “the customer’s behavior.” The best service professionals leverage containment to their advantage. Contain means to keep a situation (and your anger) within fixed limits so it doesn’t get worse.
There is no place for anger in customer service. Anger might seem appropriate as a way to even the score against a difficult customer. Yet, once you are able to compose yourself, you realize that you were in the wrong. But, by then, it is too late. You can not take back angry words that were hurled like darts at your customer.
For an untrained or inexperienced service professional, anger and revenge fuel each other in a perpetual and escalating cycle. It is best never to get that this point in the first place. Emotional containment is an advantageous starting point. Allow yourself a few seconds to think prior to responding during each unpleasant experience. Investing a moment or two in rational thought will spare you much angst and quite possibly save your company money by preventing a loss in productivity.
A service professional must take responsibility for his feelings. Customers do not make a service professional angry. Nor can they make them do or feel anything. A service professional chooses to become angry as a result of what someone else does. They should strive to modify their own behavior since they cannot change that of the customer. It is best to stop placing blame on others for your circumstances and, instead, take personal responsibility for your feelings. If there are problems to resolve, be proactive and fix them. Do not fix the blame.
The fight or flight response manifests itself in interesting ways in customer service. While it is not responsible to fight with or flee from customers, the inability of a service professional to cope with unpleasant circumstances might lead to psychological attempts to do so. Psychological flight manifests itself as apathy or discourteous behavior. This type of conduct creates distance between an agent and their customer and is contrary to the practice of building closer relationships through empathy and genuine concern. Psychological fight might be exhibited as aggressive or retaliatory behavior, which is unacceptable in an industry where it is essential to use restraint rather than retaliation.
A meaningful event stands out in my life when I recall how I consciously started thinking rationally about anger and its effects on me. Late one afternoon I handled a telephone call from a very difficult customer. It was the last call of my work day, and I left the office angry and frustrated. I kept replaying the incident in my head while driving home after work. I had blamed that customer for ruining my night. I was barely paying attention to my driving when I reached a sharp curve in the road. I lost control of my car but, fortunately, avoided a crash. The car twice spun 360 degree spins before coming to a screeching halt.
As I sat staring at the dashboard, I knew I was wrong for allowing myself to become so angry that I began to think irrationally. The expression “circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him” certainly rang true to me that evening. I had been exposed as a man who did not properly handle adversity.
The events of that night changed the way I think about and respond to anger. The memory of that night reminds me that I have a choice. These days, I choose to suspend my anger.
You will not improve as an individual or benefit in any way by considering yourself a victim who is at the mercy of the ebb and flow of life. Practice optimism and positive expectancy. You will be rewarded for learning how to suspend your anger. How? Perhaps the biggest benefit is the additional creativity which you will experience. Did you ever notice that your best ideas come when you are the most relaxed? In the world of customer service, formulating creative solutions to customer problems is easiest when you remain calm. Life is so much more fulfilling when you remove anger.
Getting to the root cause of what is causing the customer to behave badly will eventually fix the behavior. Therefore, when a customer is wrong, it’s the service professional’s primary job to contain the situation so it doesn’t get worse. The ability to keep a situation contained takes practice, application, resiliency and a positive attitude along with a desire to do what is correct.