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Episode #59 – Don’t Yell at Customer Service

advice for small business angry customers audio blog bad customers be positive Business owner motivation customer service Customers hostile customers marketing small business tip solve the problem Two Minute Commute

Here’s your advice of the year, “Make sure to yell at people trying to help you!”  Shake head.   And yet, there are jerks in the world that do this.

I will never understand two things… 1) why do people yell at customer service reps and 2) why it’s “acceptable” to yell at customer service representatives.  I’m waiting for the day that an employee sues for hostile workplace based on having to answer phones with nasty people that scream, belittle, and even swear at them… that’s right screaming at the person who is trying to help them.

I just saw a help wanted ad that actually mentions they are seeking people that are “…assertive & able to remain calm and controlled when faced with emotional customers under stressful times”  You’d think this was for a hospital, court, or funeral home employment.  Nope it was for a “big box” retail store.  This makes you do a double take!  Customers are under such “stressful times” buying an end table that the employment ad is forced to mention it as a “realistic job preview” – how far down the crazy road have we traveled?!

I’m a little different in my supervision, my staff is instructed, if the customer swears you will remove yourself from the situation. If that means hanging up or walking away, that’s acceptable.  (NOTE: Often alcohol is in the mix, so sometimes customers are not in their clear mind) — but that aside, no one, and I mean no one, deserves to be sworn at for doing their job.  Our business is REAL LIFE not Reality TV.  We do not accept poor behavior.  There are other business that will gladly accommodate the screaming/swearing, but we are a family environment, swearing does not align with our company values.

Some might be thinking, “oh gosh, that’s horrible to hang up on someone.”  Well, it’s also a pattern interrupter.  They’ll call back and then you can clearly restate the rules which are no swearing.

Do you realize I actually stepped in between a 55 year old man SCREAMING at a 16 year old employee?   How do I know how old he was? I asked.  Yep. That’s cool, scream at someone three times younger than you.

If you want to stay on the phone and get sworn at, go ahead.  But think about this, if the mind is so incredibly powerful that messages received in your brain alter you…  (It’s real basic but, happy music makes you happy, sad music makes you sad)… so if messages alter you, why listen to a customer that screams/swears/belittles you or your staff.  That’s actually not healthy.

Another thing to consider if you want to challenge my “remove yourself from the situation” rule… as a parent, do you want your child to be spoken to that way?  Remember, a great portion of the customer service jobs are “front line jobs” meaning lots and lots of first time employees hold these positions.  That might be a mind bender the next time you decide to get upset with the customer service representative on a phone… how old is the person on the other end of the phone?

There are things to do on the front end and a good representative will have the tools to control a situation, but you need to help your staff.  It gets harder and harder to find good employees, your job is to not put them into unhealthy situations.  Give them tools to succeed AND do not let them sit in abusive situations.  I mean… think about it… do you really want the responsibility of having paid someone every day, 40 hours a week, to sit at a desk and have their mind filled with nasty hostile messages?

Now… if you are the one with the problem, stop, focus, and decide how to solve the problem… but do not yell at the person trying to help you, “Be an encourager! The world has enough critics already.” W.Thurston

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Action Step
1- Don’t yell at customer service representatives, if you have a problem, figure out what the problem is and solve that problem – the person on the other end of the phone or behind the customer service desk is a human.  They are getting paid to solve the problem. That’s it.

2- If you have a customer service area or people that regularly deal with hostile customers.  Trace your problem back to why there is such a heated topic and ELIMINATE that problem.  This might mean slowing down and allowing more “one-on-one education” during in the buying phase.  But somewhere you have a problem that needs to be addressed.  But don’t let your employees get yelled at as a requirement of their job.  That’s just wrong.

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Listen to Episode #59 of the Two Minute Commute


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