While I was preparing for the upcoming Customer Service Workshop, I was pondering something interesting: The inner reaction that we each have when we feel that conflict is about to happen.
For example, a staff person stops in your doorway and says “Mr. Jones is here, he has a problem with his pool pass and he wants to talk to you.”
Do you think “Oh good, I love helping Mr. Jones.”
Or, “Oh no, not Mr. Jones again! Can I crawl under my desk?”
Or, do you have that fall in the pit of your stomach, that dread before a confrontation and the pump of adrenaline facing the unknown situation that sounds like it could be difficult.
All of this is natural, so fear not. When our ancestors heard there was a mastodon nearby trying to get into the cave, they probably grabbed their big club and went out ready for conflict. Imagine their surprise when they discovered a baby mastodon sitting on a rock in the sunshine.
I confess, my natural tendency is to dread confrontation and for the adrenaline spike to indicate I think a problem is looming. But I’ve been providing customer service for my whole career and have worked hard to train myself to approach with curiosity instead of dread.
Recently a customer sent a harried email asking a question and I assured her that the project she asked about was completed and in the mail. It was! When she complained again that no mail had come and I went back to review the project, it turns out she was NOT one of the customers who signed up for this. Uh oh! Here she is waiting and waiting impatiently, now I need to tell her it’s not coming ever because she was never on the 2020 list.
I pictured anger, finger pointing, and recriminations. I took a deep breathe, lined up my facts, prepared to call her. Guess what – SHE apologized to ME! Not at all what I was expecting! I wish I had approached the situation with calm and curiosity, instead of dread.
How can we do this?
Confidence: I know my job. I know the range of options I can offer the customer. I can think on my feet when their questions surprise me.
Calm: this customer is having a bad day, but I’m okay. This customer is having an emotional reaction to the situation, but I will keep my emotions calm.
What works for you?
Sometimes its back up – knowing you have someone to help if you need it. Maybe it’s a matter of training or being clear on what options are available to offer a customer.
Sometimes its learning the customer’s name and figuring out what makes them tick. And being aware of your own source of calm to draw on when things do get difficult.