Top Tips For Dealing With Angry Customers or Staff
First things first – recognise that this is a stressful situation and that the adrenaline is flowing – definitely in them, almost certainly in you. This means that what is being said is stoked high with emotion and passion and, as such, is not the normal way that person, or you, deals with things.
The temptation is to go steaming in, all guns blazing and get the problem out of your system. The thing is though that in the cold light of day Demon of Regret comes along and makes you wish that, really, you hadn’t said or done what you did in the heat of anger, passion, pride and emotion. What makes it worse is knowing that tomorrow, or at some point in the near future, you may have to meet that person again and try to resume some more “normal” contact or interaction.
So, draw breath, be calm and think of the following strategies that will pull you back from the precipice that is acting rashly;
When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. Now! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
Find a private space for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. People like, however much they say they don’t, watching other people expressing their anger with each other; it is, after all, a common spectator sport. If anger is expressed in a staff meeting, deal with the matter then and there by asking those involved if they want to discuss the matter in private or right there right now. This will restate a positive environment and help the meeting to move on.
Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive and open tone and manner, and use probing questions that encourage open responses.
If you know a member of your team is angry but refuses to give you any details (the good old angry cold shoulder – my favourite technique!) give them space and time to articulate this either in the immediate conversation or at a later point in time. You will not be thanked for drawing it out of them if they are not able to think about how to put their case to you. Once you get the details think and then follow-up with careful responses that explore and hopefully resolve the issue.
ALWAYS respond to feelings first, then the facts of the matter. Never the other way around as this just stokes the fire and makes you seem distant, unresponsive and uncaring.
Make sure that you have fully got an understanding of the issues at hand; check this out by asking them questions just so that you have got that full, detailed picture rather than just wading in with a “Well, what I think is ….” That only leads to more problems. Be an expert active listener and act on what you discover.
Let the other person know what our opinions on the matter are and then quickly identify some common ground from which to move forward from. Establishing common ground calms the heat of the meeting and allows a quick degree of reasoning to enter what was a hostile and confrontational issue. This shows that actually you are both on the same side, making finding a solution psychologically easier.
At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the other person to see if their feelings have changed, that there has been some movement on the problem or issue identified and then recheck their feelings. This could mean that the matter has been resolved or that it needs further work by both sides but it gives a clear indication on how the conversation has gone. Check here for non-verbal and verbal clues that match with what is being said!
Make sure that you follow-up with contact later to make sure all is well and that the matter has not reignited again or developed into something new – in this way you can save time, effort and angst by spotting a new problem in its early stages.
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