Customer Service - It's Not Me It's You.

A really great few days over in London running our Handling Difficult Customers workshop, a real insight into what retail teams can & do face on a daily (sometimes more) frequent basis. When you throw into the mix those that have had their brain hijacked by emotions or alcohol/substances, it brings home just how frightening these situations can be.

The critical stage has been getting people to understand their own role in that discussion before it reaches boiling point. What is it that triggers your response which ultimately leads to conflict between the customer & the colleague? Not an easy thing for people to accept especially when they believe that they are doing the right thing for the company & following the guidelines or policies. Which then leads to the question, who makes those policies & who are they there to support?

So how do we avoid confrontation especially when the customer has been ‘hijacked’? One thing for sure is the days when ‘if you don’t calm down I’m going to have to call the Gard’s/Police’ sending shivers down anyone’s spine are long, long gone.

Shop teams are the heartbeat of any retail organisation, they are there to support & assist customers about purchases or queries. We constantly support them with tools & knowledge of the latest technology or products yet avoid giving them the tools to really understand emotions in themselves and others which can ultimately lead to health problems, stress, anxiety & of course mental health issues too. It really does baffle me.

As part of the session we ran skills demonstrations for the afternoon, not everyone’s cup of tea yet a vital way of really getting to observe people’s true styles. Yes, you can play out a role play but eventually after repeated exercises your true style usually comes out. And that’s a great thing because that’s where we can help!

The purpose is to help understand that the success to handling issues such as these is to know & control your own emotions & behaviour because you can’t control it in others. Even more so if they are hijacked. So that should be relatively easy surely? Well no it isn’t. As I said, these teams believe they are simply following policy & that altering past that will land them in breach of a guideline & ultimately in some cases will lead to a sanction of some kind. Or what happens when they say no yet the manager comes out & says yes? How does that make you feel?

So how did we do it, after all I did say it was a great few days. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, if you ask someone what their understanding of the word conflict is, generally you will get a fairly grim answer.

The core principles generally are:

  • Realising that the person has a challenge with an outcome that has presented itself, they don’t have a challenge with you.

  • Whilst they may appear to be agitated/under the influence that is your interpretation, not necessarily a fact.

  • We all have an inner bias, accept it, understand what it is & then learn to control it.

  • Don’t prejudge an outcome of something before it has happened.

  • You have no idea of their journey so far today or what they have been engaged with or incidents that may have occurred before they even enter your shop.

  • Your reaction will result in a reaction, unless they have entered the store to commit an armed robbery there will undoubtedly be an interaction of some sort before the conflict takes place.

  • Breathe. Give yourself time to assess, what is the outcome that we both want from this?

  • Concentrate on what you can do for the customer, not what you can’t or won’t.

  • Know your boundaries, this isn’t about accepting abuse or threats of aggression more understanding what is offensive to you might not be to one of your colleagues.

  • Never, ever put yourself in danger. If you believe there is an imminent threat to yourself or those around you use the facilities that are there to help. Panic buttons aren’t just there as a visual aid, they are there for your safety.

One thing that came out of the workshop was that feedback at the end of the skills demonstration was ineffective as the event had played out. Instead, as we were in the middle of them we were able to ‘pause’ if there was a point where we had a reason to have a debate. It wasn’t comfortable at first, breaking the flow of an argument was tough but we found it to be far more effective in each person understanding what it was they were trying to get across & why. That’s a privilege you don’t have in real situations plus it was a really great way of getting everyone involved in the outcome debate.

So, what’s the point we’re trying to get across? It’s understanding that whilst not everyone will compromise or speak to you calmly, in most situations the reaction you are receiving is quite possibly down to how you have responded to that person in the first instance. Don’t agree with me?

Ok, so answer me this, if someone approaches you with a smile & a warm hello, is your response to them the same as someone who is assertive, gives no warm hello & has a raised voice?... Really?

Secondly its realising that in most cases, the person is likely challenging a company policy or something that the business has decided you cannot do (for many different reasons). So in that case we are saying that this situation will result in a Win – Lose for the customer? Where’s that covered in the marketing campaign?

Thirdly it’s about accepting your store teams likely go through incidents that you can only dream about in an office situation with the ‘corporate values’ that are in place. You can’t send the customer an email to say your meeting has overrun so can they rearrange until tomorrow. If you call the police there will generally be a delay of anything between minutes to hours. What happens to your team in between?

It’s certainly something that opens up a good discussion & there’s a whole range of differing views & opinions. I’ll bet that those differences are generally between front line staff & those in head office….?

Give your teams the care they deserve & help them develop skills that will nurture those Win – Win situations that make all the difference. To everyone.

Get in touch with us today & see for yourselves how you can make such a difference to your customers (internal & external) experience.

#difficultcustomers #UnconsciousBias #bias #prejudice #customerservice #customerjourney #retail #teams #Conflict #emotionalhijaking #emotions

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