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Losing Your Cool

Filed under Corporate, Hospitality, Service Culture

When you lose your coolThis week I’d like to talk about what happens when we lose our cool in a customer service situation. And I think it’s important to examine both sides of the issue–customers who lose their cool and professionals who lose their cool.

When Customers Lose Their Cool

As a professional: when we’re working in a service environment, one thing we dread most is a customer who loses his or her cool. If we’re truly committed to upholding the service container, then nothing feels more unjust than a client who misinterprets our actions.

However, we must remember that there is a reason that someone is frustrated. Sure, that reason itself might be frustrating and have nothing to do with us. But as a service professional we’re placed in a position where we must care about making things right.

First, assess the situation. If the customer seems so angry that you’re afraid he or she may become violent, then you need to remove yourself from the situation. This is incredibly rare, but it does happen sometimes. Most likely, the client will express his or her anger with words and body language.

Make sure that your words and body language are calm and accepting. People who are angry are sensitive to the tone of your voice, and more than anything they want to know that you are listening and understand why they’re angry.

It might be tempting to respond with anger, especially if you believe that you’ve done nothing wrong, but it is crucial that you remain calm. After listening to the client discuss–rant might be a better term–what they are angry about, work with them to come up with an acceptable solution to whatever issue has arisen.

As a customer: If you’re a customer who has lost your cool with a service professional, there are ways to remedy this! Once you’ve recovered your composure, an apology is always appreciated.

Remember that customer service representatives are not always the ones to blame for a bad experience. For example, some corporations have convoluted and ridiculous policies, and service professionals are merely the messengers of the bad news. Attacking them personally for something they have no control over is unfair to them.

Instead, try to calm down and express the specifics of why you’re frustrated. The service professional will be able to help you better the more he or she knows about your problem. You can work together to find a solution.

If the service professional truly is unable to help you, then don’t be afraid to ask to speak to someone else. Sometimes having a fresh perspective can help diffuse a situation like this.

When Professionals Lose Their Cool

As a professional: Losing your cool is never, well, cool. We should strive to maintain composure when we’re face to face with our clients and customers. If you need to step away for a minute or two to ensure that you don’t say something out of anger, then please do. Just make sure that when you’re speaking with a client you remain calm.

Unfortunately we all slip up. Sometimes we lose our cool, and we need to know how to remedy the situation so that we don’t cause irreparable damage.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, poor customer service experiences can spread like wildfire on Twitter and other social networks. Whereas before our clients had to rely on word of mouth, today they can type up a complaint in 140 characters, and post it online for the world to see.

If you find yourself losing your cool with a client the best option may be to transfer the issue to someone else. On the phone, this is easy enough. Over email this can also be done relatively easily. In person, you may need to step away for a moment and find someone else who can take over.

However, sometimes you’re the only person available to help a client. If this is the case, then consider your words carefully. For example, if you’re responding by email, then write several drafts before sending the email. Rashly clicking “send” on an angry email is never a good idea. Instead, have a colleague look over the email to proofread it for inappropriate lashing out.

Finally, please apologize. Let the customer know that you know that you’re in the wrong, when losing your cool. Even if you perceive the issue to be theirs entirely, losing your cool is not an acceptable way of dealing with it. You don’t need to work with the client in the future, but you do need to make sure that the interaction ends on a relatively positive note.

As a customer: Nothing makes my blood boil like a customer service professional losing their cool. They’ve been hired to help us, and we expect them to do so.

When it happens, and it will happen, you may want to immediately ask to speak with someone else. This can help diffuse the situation quickly, and it might be just the suggestion the service professional needs.

If, however, you must deal with this person, then try to remain calm as you explain your issue or question. Service professionals are human too, and are also subject to good and bad moods. Be compassionate, above all else.

You may choose to file a formal complaint. It’s pretty likely that the service professional has lost his or her cool in the past, and if no one has filed a complaint, then the company or organization could be bleeding out customers without knowing why.

Be kind in your complaint, if that’s possible! Try to stick with the facts: what happened, how did the service professional react, how did you respond, was the issue resolved.

We’d all like to believe that we will maintain our composure at all times, but few of us do. I suggest incorporating a stress-relief activity in your daily life. This can be ten minutes of meditation on your lunch break, a quick jog, petting your dog or cat, listening to classical music, or laughing really hard! Be creative and find something that can help calm you down when you feel your anger boiling.

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