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What angry customers want

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During this current credit crunch the public need their banks and money to be safe (our primary want). In theory then, if our financial institutions are safe, we should all feel satisfied. Unfortunately for the banks, we also have some other, secondary wants that are not being addressed and are causing a lot of disquiet. It would be nice to know for example, who is responsible? Are they going to explain what happened? Are they going to apologise?

The same holds for angry customers; they usually have a primary want (the payment, repair, delivery, or other service). However, if they only stopped being aggressive when they got what they wanted, there would be little opportunity or point in trying to calm them down.

Each one of us has some secondary human needs and wants that if addressed, will help us to relax and view a situation differently. So what else could a customer want apart from the reason for their call or visit?

Primarily angry customers want attention. Unfortunately, because of their poor behaviour we often provide the opposite. When someone is angry with us it’s not surprising we can respond by ‘closing down’, ‘going quiet’, ‘tensing up’ and generally being less engaging. To make matters worse this is often perceived by the customer as uncaring, uninterested or obstructive. Although it’s often difficult, if we can deal with their frustration levels and give them as much attention as possible, we can reduce the ‘heat’ in the conflict.

We all like to feel understood by others and when we do we relax a little. This is the same for irate customers. We can sometimes be so preoccupied with trying to explain something to the customer that we forget their need to be listened to fully and understood. Remember, when we are listening completely our views are not important (they can come in later!). Listening fully even for a short time is the most effective approach you can take to calm the customer down.

When customers are angry, they are seeking to have a problem acknowledged. Unfortunately it’s human nature that if we do not see it as a major problem, we won’t acknowledge it as such. Or worse we see it as a problem for the customer but we still don’t acknowledge it. The customer then feels the need to tell us again and again, in an increasingly loud voice to get through to us. So even if you do not have a solution to the problem, it’s still beneficial to acknowledge that it is an issue for them.

The ‘flashpoint’ in a conversation is usually reached when we run out of options for the customer. Providing options or choices encourages the customer to think rather than react. Be creative in providing options that can be exercised now (would you like us to call you back?) or in the future (here is a name and address you may write to).

Whilst we will not always be able to solve the customer’s problem, we can remind ourselves of those other ‘wants’ that also need attention. Taking action on the customers’ needs and ‘wants’ will help reduce the conflict.



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