Kill em’ with “kindness”

For anyone who has worked in the ever popular industry of customer service …

Much of what you have encountered can be seen in these photos, except for the fact that they are disguised in adult bodies.

I was employed by the largest DIY Home Improvement Center for nearly 12 years. The customer was always right … “give the customer whatever they need to make them happy, to ensure their return.” As the years progressed it became very apparent to me that, the “customer” was very aware of the company’s mission statement. The quality of customer service began to decline – admittedly. And while the company and the consumer struggled to find a fair and equitable balance, the capacity of my job became increasingly more difficult.

My job entailed minimizing, the store’s loss in revenue, by managing all in-store damaged and/or lost inventory and customer returned merchandise. Since, like most merchandising companies that use a perpetual inventory system,  it is critical to maintain, minimize and manage potential loss that can occur daily – which ultimately impact the bottom line.

That being said …

I was called to the front of the store on one occasion, a customer was attempting to return a Christmas Tree – in February. His claim, we had sold him a defective tree – that simply died. I promise, it happened and perhaps if not to me , I wouldn’t believe it either!!!

It was obvious that he was looking for the cash return and when I could not comply with nothing more then a $40 gift card, he took the card and left the store. But he and I were not done yet, I was later contacted by our regional office in regards to his complaint of my “poor customer service”

Sure that is the extreme –

but through the doors would come millions of shoppers throughout the year, purchasing, returning, window shopping … what I began to notice was apathy in our associates, young and old.

In essence, customers were permitted to do at will and it seemed as though the associates were simply helpless to the whims and whines, otherwise face the consequences of their less then stellar performance – based on the consumers inability to have exactly what they wanted.

As my position broaden so didn’t the responsibilities, I found that with the title I had far more contact with irate customers.

Adapting to the culture and adhering to the mission statement, it only made sense to, “Kill em’ with Kindness.” A tactical move, called survival.

First and foremost – listen. Do not try to talk over the customer or argue with them. Let the customer have their say, even if you can anticipate what they are going to say next, and even if they may not have all the information or be mistaken. As you listen, take the opportunity to build rapport with the customer – as well as steady yourself and realize this is not a personal slam. Removing yourself from the line of fire, helps tremendously diffuse the situation. Or at the very least neutralize your own position.

Build rapport through empathy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Echo back the source of their frustration and show that you understand their position and situation. If you can identify with a customer’s issue, it will help calm them down. If you verbally “nod” during the call, the customer will feel better understood.

Lower your voice – adjust the tone. If the customer gets louder, speaking slowly and in a lower tone doesn’t allow the confrontation to escalate . Your calm demeanor will not only aid you in your overall approach to the heated situation, but eventually reflect on them and will help them to settle down. As you approach the situation with a calm, clear mind, unaffected by the customer’s tone or volume, anger will generally dissipate. – In the same way, it does when a child throws a temper tantrum!!!

Know when to give in. If not satisfying the customer is going to take two hours and a bottle of aspirin and risk negative referrals, it is probably better to draw a compromise a bit more in their favor to give you more time to nurture your more productive customer relationships. Keep in mind that the interaction is not typical of most customers, and that you’re dealing with an exception. As in all things, you simply have to pick and choose your battles!

Never get angry or upset. If the customer is swearing or being verbally abusive, take a deep breath and continue as if you didn’t hear them. At that point you’ve probably concluded that responding in kind will not solve anything,  but more escalate the situation in a negative direction. Instead, remind the customer that you are there to help them and again offer the chance of resolving the situation – often your non-reactive responses to the rantings will diminish their energy. It’s been my experience that when the customer is the only one jumping up and down and basically fighting with themselves … the bullying attitude soon disappears.

Never take it personally. Always speak to the issue at hand, speak to the logic of the situation. Never take it personally, even if the customer does. Remember that we cannot control how others behave, we are only responsible for how we respond. Important to note that they are just venting their own frustration, we get to decide how someone else’s bad day, bad attitude affects us! Stay in the issue – ignore personal comments.

Remember that you’re interacting with a human. Everyone has bad days.  We’ve all been there, to some degree. Responding to someone’s anger, truthfully – does it really make you feel better in the long run? This is when I have chosen to kill em with kindness! It also protects you, from engaging in someone else’s frustration.

If you promise a callback – call back! Even if you promised an update that you don’t have yet, call the customer at the scheduled time anyway. The customer will be reassured to know that you were not trying to dodge them and will appreciate the follow-up. In short, “do your job” no matter how the customer has behaved!

Summarize the next steps. At the end of the call, let the customer know exactly what to expect and then be sure to follow through on your promises. Document the call to ensure you’re well prepared for the next interaction.

And above all else, always remember to say, “Please and Thank you”