Hey, customer! Take a chill pill!

OK, so while this may be what’s coming to mind as you open your mouth to diffuse an emotional customer, good communication skills will filter this statement into something pleasantly soothing and magically transformative. Some may claim that performing magic would be easier than pleasantly responding to an irate customer, but with a focused commitment to positive communication, business professionals might be surprised at their own “power” to redirect a customer’s frustration.

While situations vary, keeping your cool is the overall goal of any heated interaction. Simply by remaining calm, you exude a confidence that the problem has a solution. The rest of the interaction can be remembered as easily as you remember your vowels: AEIOU.

•    Acknowledgment
•    Empathy
•    Insight
•    Offer
•    Understanding

Starting with an acknowledgement of the customer’s concern and empathy for their distress immediately softens the customer’s defense and begins to assure them that you are open to helping them.

The next stage of the interaction involves gaining insight into the situation – listening to the customer’s story to determine the problem. This stage may also involve providing insight, which may settle the situation right then and there. If you are able to clear up a misunderstanding or answer a question that wasn’t being answered, that may be all that was needed to clear up the situation.

You can most often expect the offer stage to turn the corner for the situation, be it an offer to do something about the problem, to provide a reimbursement or replacement, or even to handle something differently in the future. Unhappy customers are likely to come with a demand ready, and by having a spirit of offering ready to go after gaining the insight needed, you continue to control the positive momentum.

A lasting impression is made in the understanding phase, where it is imperative to communicate an agreement that the situation has been resolved, so that the customer can walk away feeling taken care of, satisfied and far from the angry patron who initiated the exchange.

And then, you can put your “magic wand” back in your pocket.