In a confrontation with a customer, you have a goal: win the customer, not the argument. I’ve written about this before, and it’s worth coming back to this topic from another angle with a different example. First, an interaction with a customer should never result in an argument. The best people in customer service, sales, […]
In a confrontation with a customer, you have a goal: win the customer, not the argument. I’ve written about this before, and it’s worth coming back to this topic from another angle with a different example.
First, an interaction with a customer should never result in an argument. The best people in customer service, sales, or any frontline customer-facing job avoid escalating a confrontation to the level of a dispute. Instead, the best people de-escalate a confrontation to a mutually agreeable solution.
Here’s what I witnessed this week. I was on a plane and noticed that the flight attendant greeting passengers was more interested in telling passengers the rules than offering a warm, friendly greeting as people boarded the plane. There was a woman with a small pack strapped to her belt. It was maybe an inch thick and barely larger than a cell phone. It probably held her phone and maybe her wallet, but it wasn’t big enough for anything else.
Rather than the flight attendant saying, “Welcome aboard,” he pointed at her belt and said, “That’s going to have to go in the overhead or under the seat.”
The passenger said, “I’ve been flying with this for 15 years, and nobody has ever asked me to remove it from my belt.”
The flight attendant replied, “I’ve been flying for 20 years, and I know the rules.”
So much for trying to win the customer. As I watched this, it was hard for me not to go to the flight attendant to introduce myself and suggest an alternative response that might have been friendlier and helped him convey his message. First, he could have extended a warm greeting. Then, he could have worded his statement as a friendly request rather than an order.
How is this different from what I’ve written about in the past? First, the customer (or passenger) didn’t walk on the plane with a bad attitude. She wasn’t coming into the conversation upset or angry. She didn’t have a complaint that eventually could turn into an argument. The opposite was happening. The flight attendant started it. Even if he was right and had to enforce a rule, he could have approached his request in a friendly manner that included an attitude of diplomacy and an explanation. Instead, he started the confrontation with an aggressive tone and a command that put the customer on the defensive and made the passengers around her uncomfortable.
There’s no good ending to this story. The passenger complied, but the employee never made things right. His angry and militant attitude continued throughout the flight.
It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not about blame. It’s about a customer-focused, friendly approach that doesn’t taint the experience.
Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at www.Hyken.com. Connect with Shep on LinkedIn.
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