Top Ten Tips for managing conflict when working in customer services (Part four) - The Conflict Training Company

So, we’ve reached the final three of our top tips for effective conflict management. They’re all points we’ve touched on before in our previous Knowledge Centre articles, so do check back through the earlier ones for more detail.

Top Tip 8.
Acknowledge people’s feelings and ask them to slow down. There’s a reason why people are shouting at you – it’s because they are angry and they want you to know it! Until you acknowledge their feelings they aren’t going to listen to what you have to say. So try starting with “I can see you’re angry about this”, or “Clearly this has been very frustrating for you”, whatever seems more appropriate. Once their anger has been acknowledged they are far more likely to calm down, but you can also increase the chances of this by then asking them to slow down so you can hear them better. When people slow their speech down they actually calm down as well – remember to never tell someone to actually “calm down!”

Top Tip 9.
Take the time to find out what the real problem is. One of the big mistakes people tend to make when trying to manage conflict is jumping in too early. When we are having a disagreement with someone it’s tempting to jump in as soon as the other person pauses, to say your bit. This may be to put your counterpoint across to “win” the argument, to offer reassurance that something isn’t the case, or just to explain your side and point of view. However, if you take the time to really listen to what the person is saying you could avoid unnecessary conflict.
It’s often the case that people aren’t angry for the reason we first think they are. Your customer may be complaining about something that seems really trivial, but deep down, what’s really bothering them is a completely different matter. The issue could be something that’s been going on for much longer, and this latest, smaller issue is simply the final straw. We would recommend you try looking back at what the person has said to get to the root of the problem. Utilise phrases such as “It sounds like you’re upset with … ” or “So what you’re saying is …” This helps people to think about the point they are making and gives them chance to then say “Well actually, the real issue is …”

Top Tip 10.
Look for a win-win situation. The golden rule in conflict management! When two opposing sides are trying to deal with an issue the easiest way to solve conflict is through collaboration. But if the other person feels that you are working against them, why should they make the effort to collaborate? Therefore be clear that you want to find a way to solve the problem that is agreeable to all. Compromise if you can, but always aim for a win-win situation.

For more information on listening, check out the articles “It’s good to talk – but even better to listen” and “When is a quick solution for the customer not the best option?” in our Knowledge Centre. And for more on acknowledging people’s feelings, read of the article “There’s no need to shout”. But don’t stop there! Have a look through the rest of our conflict management articles at our Knowledge Centre – we’re sure you’ll find many more useful tips to help you with the management of conflict.