What is causing your upset customers?

A recent issue of the consulting firm Yankelovich’s newsletter, “Monitor,” got me thinking again about the customer experience. The article was about civility and how “kindness and consideration are always in demand,” but more so after horrific events. I believe people are looking for human connection in the face of tragedies that leave people thinking, “That’s horrible. What if that were me or my family in trouble?”

However, we’ve seen human grace, patience and forgiveness fall to the wayside more frequently. From the person who cuts you off in traffic, to hassling the airline gate agent because a flight is delayed, to talking loudly on cell phones in restaurants, airports and other public places. Recently, in a sparsely populated restaurant, I couldn’t help but overhear a woman’s cell phone conversation loudly recounting her colonoscopy experience. Talk about an appetite depressant!

In 2003, Pew and Public Agenda released a study titled “Aggravating Circumstances.” It states, “Not only do eight in 10 Americans in our study say a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem, but six in 10 say things have become worse in recent years. A surprising 41 percent admit that they’re part of the problem and sometimes behave badly themselves. More than a third (35 percent) admit to being aggressive drivers, at least occasionally, while 17 percent of those with cell phones admit to using them in a loud or annoying way.

“Americans say that disrespect, lack of consideration and rudeness are serious, pervasive problems that affect them on a personal, gut level. [They] say they are witnessing a deterioration of courtesy and respectfulness that has become a daily assault on their sensibilities and the quality of their lives.”

But what does this have to do with your business?

The report continues: “[M]ost human enterprises proceed more smoothly if people are respectful and considerate of one another, and they easily become poisoned if people are unpleasant and rude.” So all of your employees are affected by inconsiderate colleagues they must encounter. This cultivates resentfulness, bitterness, lack of motivation and low morale. Shoddy work ensues, and ultimately poor customer interactions.

On this topic, the report says, “Americans say that the way they are treated by business and customer service employees is frequently exasperating, and sometimes even insulting. Too many workers, they complain, are careless, apathetic and unhelpful.”

With rude and discourteous behavior rising on both sides of the customer service counter, it’s important that your people have the skills to not only avoid being disrespectful and discourteous themselves, but to disarm those customers who think this is the most effective way to get what they want.

Calming Upset CustomersWhich is why my book Calming Upset Customers, which first came out in 1989, is still a great seller. It is packed with ideas on how to avoid irritating your customers, then how to salve their pain if that fails. And how to manage your emotions afterward so you can treat the next customer professionally.

(I’m happy to autograph any books ordered through my web site or on the phone. Just tell me who to address it to when you order. There’s also a companion video which combined with a book for all your staff makes a very effective staff training session.)

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