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Angry Customers are like pressure cookers.
We’ve all had situations where a client who was disappointed with our company’s service begins ranting and raving.
Let’s look at how we need to deal with that negative energy. Think of a pressure cooker. When the pressure is building up there is always that little pressure release valve on the top of the lid. In the older fashioned models they had that screw-on valve which required a wet dishcloth to slowly unscrew it in order to let off the steam before you were able to open the lid. As you took off the pressure release valve, the steam rushed out and only then were you able to open the lid. The same is relevant with someone who is very angry. Initially there is a huge amount of pressure that they have built up. We must release that pressure first before dealing with the situation at hand.
I think we all can all relate to the times when we have tried desperately to calm down an angry customer, saying something along the lines of; “Sir, I know how your feeling and I understand why you angry”. Their retort is typically an attack along the lines of; “You don’t understand anything”. They are just not interested in anything you have to say, no matter how helpful you are trying to be. You quickly arrive at the conclusion there is simply no use in trying. No matter what you say, it’s just not good enough and the more you say, the more they get angry. You just can’t win!
We can however deal with the anger effectively, if we understand that it is the pressure that we are dealing with and until we have released this pressure, we will not be effective in dealing with the situation.
I remember as a child, my mother had one of those old fashioned pressure cookers – with the screw on pressure valve fitted to the top of the lid. I remember her once screwing it off when it actually exploded out of her hand, knocked a hole right through the ceiling and spraying orange soup everywhere. After all the steam had escaped, she was then able to remove the lid and salvage the remainder of the soup.Imagine taking that lid off before the pressure had been released. The lid would have gone right through the roof, let alone just the ceiling. So what we learn is that we will never be able to stir the ingredients inside the pot until we have let off the steam, unless we want an almighty explosion.
Let an angry customer blow off steam:
It is exactly the same when dealing with an angry client. We need to first allow them to let off the steam before we can begin to deal with the issue at hand. If we try and deal with the issue before the steam is released, we will have an explosion.
There was a highly accomplished psychologist in the USA called Dr Carl Rogers who developed the technique which is today referred to as “Rogerian Reflection Techniques’. It centres around the principal that when you encounter a very angry individual, you must simply reflect what they are feeling. Almost like a mirror. An example of which is simply saying “You are very angry”. By doing that the empathy clicks in. The person immediately registers that you are recognizing ‘where they are at’.
Conversely, if you said, “Don’t speak to me like that” you will create a tsunami. Everyone’s greatest need is acceptance. By reflecting what you see, you are by inference showing acceptance and that has a calming effect on the angry individual. Don’t however say to that person “I know how you are feeling”. They will just attack you saying that you don’t have a clue how they are feeling. You could expect a retort along the lines of “if you knew how I was feeling you wouldn’t be treating me like this”.
By the same token, if you say that “I see you are very angry”, you are likely to be told that you and your company see nothing. Therefore leave out words like ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘feel’ etc. Those words will be latched onto and used against you. Keep your reflections neutral and only reflect exactly what you observe.
The 3 Best reflection statements:
Stating (reflecting); ‘You are very angry’, followed on very quickly with another statement along the lines of ‘We have disappointed you’ and then after his/her acknowledgement of that, another reflection along the lines of ‘You expected more from us’, will be highly effective in getting the steam to blow off. All we need is 3 such reflections in succession, and the steam will be let out and you will be able to reason with the individual.
Remember never to say “I hear that you very angry.” They will retort by saying “you hear nothing”, and the anger will mount. So be careful not to use those kinds of statements. Be very frank in terms of what you see.
So, to master this process, begin by rehearsing 3 simple statements:
• You very angry
• You are very disappointed in us
• We’ve let you down
Allow them to respond between each of the 3 reflections and you will observe the steam being let off, bringing them down to a point where you can deal with the issue at hand. Trying to deal with the issue before letting the steam off will be similar to trying to open the lid of the pressure cooker before letting off the steam….it with be an almighty explosion which can so be easily avoided with 3 simple reflections.
Remember that if you try to deal with it too quickly you are going to be attacked and you will get nowhere. Let the steam off first and then deal with the issue in the way that you are probably competent to deal with any way.