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

If you work in customer service you will have your own stories and experiences of angry interactions with discourteous customers. It can sometime feel like a very challenging environment to work in. However, there are some tried and tested good practices which can help you to manage challenging customers.  We thought we should pick our top ten conflict management techniques – and (in no particular order), here are the first three of our favourites (more next month).

1) Manage your own conflict before you attempt to manage the customers. It’s almost impossible to manage another person’s conflict while you are in an angry state yourself. So whatever you do, do not get caught up in the other person’s aggressive behaviour. Getting angry means the situation escalates as you wind each other up.  Your ability to think creatively and clearly is reduced and problem solving becomes far more difficult. The chances of then  finding common ground and some agreement disappear out the window. Have a look through some of the other articles in our Conflict Management Knowledge Centre and you’ll find some good ways to manage your responses – A good place to start would be the article; “A simple way to control your response to customer’s anger”.

2) Try to understand the person’s anger. Remember, people don’t choose to be upset and unhappy for no reason (unless it is just a tactic to get their own way). There will be a reason why someone is angry. Even if that reason eventually proves to be stupid, wrong or ridiculous, at that moment in time, that person believes it to be valid, important and real. Across the articles in our knowledge centre there are a number of articles related to this issue, including “What angry customers want” and “No need to take it personally”.

3) Be nice – to yourself as well as them. It’s a lot easier for a customer to be angry at someone they don’t like. So therefore, go out of your way to be polite, calm, and reasonable. This will need to be genuine, which is sometimes difficult to do when you know the other person is in the wrong – and maybe isn’t being reasonable, polite or calm themselves. However, by reminding yourself of the aggravation you’ll avoid by being nice, you’ll realise that you’ll benefit from it just as much (if not more) than the other person. It’s a sort of “kill them with kindness” approach. Try to terminate the conflict before it has chance to grow into a monster!  Statements like, “I can see why you feel that way”, “That must be really frustrating”, or “OK, I understand,” will help the person feel that they don’t need to shout and that you are listening. In our knowledge centre there are a number of articles explaining how best to achieve this. For example check out “why there’s no need to shout!”.

So there are the first three techniques of our top ten, look out for the next article for more. Of course, all of these strategies are covered in much greater detail on our conflict management courses, so drop us a line if you want to find out more.

Until next time, goodbye.