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

In our last article we started our countdown of our favourite ten tips for managing conflict when working in customer services.

We covered our first three top tips (in no particular order) last month, so here are the next two of our favourites.

Number 4) Respect the person and speak slowly

Having respect for someone who is acting like an out of control toddler can be rather difficult, but it is in your own interest to do the best you can. You might have at some time, when angry or upset, said something or behaved in a way that with hindsight you wouldn’t have chosen to do. Maybe this is the customer’s time for doing this. Focus yourself on talking to the person as if they’re a reasonable, respectable adult and you are more likely to get a better response from them – whereas getting frustrated with someone who is already upset only makes them even more upset. A good place to start is making sure you speak slowly. This works for three reasons:

1. Firstly it helps you remain calm and softly spoken. Have you ever tried shouting slowly? – It is almost impossible.

2. Secondly when you talk fast you take lots of short breaths, and that’s exactly what you do when you’re feeling panicky. Your heart starts beating faster and your body and brain think you are stressed. Not what you want when you wish to stay calm.

3. Finally, if you speak slowly, the person you speak to is more likely to unconsciously mirror your behaviour and talk slowly themselves, thus helping to diffuse a potentially difficult situation.

Number 5) Be assertive but if the time comes, walk away

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, respectful 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 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 it’s a phone call, ask to call the person back (though make sure you give them a time frame), or if possible pass it on to someone else, giving them a heads up that there is an angry customer on the phone – this will give them the time to mentally prepare that maybe you didn’t have.

We cover a number of ways to be assertive across articles in our knowledge centre, including the article “Three steps to disagreeing with customers agreeably”. In addition the article “What if the customer won’t calm down” will give you some ideas regarding exit strategies.

Watch out for the next article when we’ll be revealing our next three top tips for managing conflict in customer services.