To manage conflict effectively, it’s not how you say something, it is how the customer perceives what you say, that is most important. How they perceive what you say will determine if they are hearing information that is being respectfully communicated or if they feel they are being ‘told off’. Regardless of the words you use, your pitch, tone, and speed of speech will determine which one it will be.
How to Manage Conflict?
What you say and what a customer perceives you mean is also determined by each customer’s unique communication ‘filter’ at play. For example, calling a customer by their first name might be fine for one person but it sends another into a rage. If you have the misfortune to say something that triggers a client to anger it might not be your fault. You cannot possibly know all of the individual words and phrases that might trigger every customer so try to avoid being too self-critical if you ‘step’ on someone’s communication filter.
Our tone of voice is how we sound when we say words out loud. Our tone can also refer to the general mood we create when we use words, either spoken or written. For example, friendly, formal, inclusive, respectful, harsh, accusing or blaming tone. How do we set the tone? Firstly, check-in with how you are feeling. If you feel it is the customer’s fault, a harsh tone may be the one you adopt.
Secondly, ask a question rather than make a statement. For example, a restaurant manager asking; ‘what time did you have for the table sitting?’ is better than, ‘you were supposed to be here at 7 pm’. Thirdly, keep your tone consistent. Sometimes we have to say things the client will not like, such as, there is no longer a table available. The friendly tone put forward by the restaurant manager should not change no matter how long it takes for the customer to accept the situation.
Our speed of speech has a major influence on how we are perceived during a conflict situation. The faster we speak the more reactive we tend to be and the less time we have available to think. Drop back to normal relaxed conversation speed and notice the customer matching your speed and how more relaxed you will feel.
Have you checked our recent blog post which delves into more details on managing conflict?
Our voice pitch is the relative highness or lowness of a tone, which depends on the number of vibrations per second produced by the vocal cords. The amount of vibrations depends upon the amount of air we are forcing through our lungs. The keyword is force.
If you are forcing air through your lungs you are probably forcing the conversation. That is, ever so slightly pushing the customer to accept something or your explanation, which they may be resisting. When we do that our voice pitch tends to increase. Your role is to communicate with customers rather than trying to push them to accept something. If the customer won’t accept an outcome you are suggesting it usually will not change the overall outcome.
You can only provide what you can provide. Ease back on trying to get the customer to accept your explanation (if you have already said it 3 or 4 times) and your voice pitch will naturally fall to a level that will help to de-escalate rather than escalate the conflict.
To manage conflict effectively, notice your tone, keep the conversation conversational and manage your voice pitch by easing back on trying to get the customer to accept what they are finding hard to accept.
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