It doesn’t matter what topic we are teaching or the audience we are teaching it to – there is one question we are asked time and time again.
And that is “When dealing with a difficult customer, What is the best way to de-escalate the situation?”
This is useful if you are dealing with an emotionally driven conversation with a customer, a colleague, or even one of your own team members.
I will share something with you that I hope you will find as useful as I have over the years.
When I worked for Apple I came up with a formula that ensured that I could de-escalate an emotionally driven conversation quickly and effectively. The secret is to quickly take control of the conversation whilst making the irate person feel like you are are genuinely interested and that you really listening to them. It’s not easy but once you have mastered it – it will work a treat.
I have placed the formula at the bottom of this page for you to use (hopefully you won’t need it too often). It is important to follow it step by step and it is crucial that you do not skip any part of it.
Firstly it is important to take a non-emotional view on what’s happening. The irate person is only trying to share as much information with you as they can possibly get out at once, usually by raising their voice and ranting.
The hardest part is interrupting them, can almost hear you saying,
“Nooooooooo, don’t interrupt them, let them run out of steam.”
I can see why some people would think this works but lets be honest here, we are worth more than being someone else punch bag – aren’t we?
The trick here is to use the rant to your advantage.
Start off by saying something like:
“What you are saying is really important so let me grab a pen so I can make some notes”
This is the safest way I have found of interrupting someone.
Then you want to hit them with a big fat piece of empathy by saying something like:
“I would feel exactly the same if I were in your shoes”
Its very hard for someone to come back with an emotional response once you’ve shown real empathy.
Now this is your opportunity to take complete control of the situation and show them that you have been truly listening by saying…
“OK so let me check what I’ve captured so far…”
Quickly followed by…
“and what else happened..?”
“and what else..?”
Now who is in control of the amount of information that is coming your way? You are!
They feel like you are listening and in the process you will have totally de-escalated the situation. Bravo!
Once you have extracted all the information out of them and they are as cool as a cucumber – you then want to manage their expectations.
Try something like:
“I can get some of this sorted straight away (let them know which bits) and some of it will have to be done tomorrow”
Then finish with asking them what they think.
Putting this into practice will make you a master at dealing with those hard to handle, emotional conversations.
Please give this a go because after working in retail training there is one thing that I learnt, and that is we are worth much more than being someone else’s verbal punch bag.
Please, let me know how you get on.