Top ten tips for managing conflict when working in customer services (Part Three) - The Conflict Training Company

You might have heard the proverb that ‘you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. The next steps of our top ten tips series reflects on this old proverb. If you are hearing lots of ‘vinegar’ from a client, responding in kind will provoke an escalation in the conflict. Responding with appropriate levels of honey will not guarantee a positive outcome but it keeps you in a less defensive state of mind, which can only help the situation. For more on this subject have a look in our knowledge centre for the article.

Number 5) Be assertive
Having respect for customers and giving them the benefit of the doubt will often pay dividends, but equally you need to know where to draw the line. If someone’s behaviour is unacceptable, let them know in a calm, courteous way. Explain to them that if they are respectful to you, you will be able to help them (you need to sell this idea, with something in it for them). Don’t be afraid to tell someone you will have to walk away or hang up the phone if they are being abusive. Otherwise they will continue or repeat this behaviour the next time.

If you feel it’s all getting just too much, then don’t be afraid to remove yourself from the situation. If you’re face to face, make an excuse to get away for a few seconds, (check some details, see if someone can help who knows more about it, etc.). If the customer is calling in on the phone, ask to call them back or if possible pass them on to someone else who might be better able to assist. For more on this subject have a look in our knowledge centre for the article.

Tip number 6 – Don’t take it personally
When people are upset, stressed or worried, that emotion can often be displayed in the form of anger. When someone is annoyed at you, even though the problem isn’t something you created, it’s important to manage how you react. The best way to do this, is to first reframe how you think about it. Remind yourself that the person isn’t mad at you directly — they’re mad at the situation, at the stress of the day or at the fact that they didn’t get enough sleep last night. Keeping this in mind will allow you to distance yourself from any feelings of resentment or offence that will only add to the negativity and increase the conflict. For more on this subject have a look in our knowledge centre for the article.

Top tip number 7 – Apologise genuinely
Sometimes of course it is your fault. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we like admitting them. If someone has aggressive in a way that upsets us (maybe because we have done something that has upset them) sorry can be the hardest word. Sometimes despite knowing we are in the wrong, we don’t want to give ground. However, every second you wait, the more likely the situation is to escalate. Instead acknowledge it immediately and then do what you can to make it right – and whatever you do, don’t follow your initial apology with “but…… A ‘but’ suggests that what whatever you said before you don’t really mean. So don’t try to justify what you’ve done or make excuses, just say sorry – and mean it. For more on this subject check out our article ‘when is it wise to apologise?’

Put these techniques in to action (along with the other ones we’ve told you about) and it will mean you can improve conflict management at work. We’ll be back soon with the final three of our top ten tips.

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