Working in a customer service role can be a very rewarding experience, but at times it can be quite stressful!
Hotel managers and other staff members greet and assist their clients in order to ensure that they have the best experience possible. In recent years there has been a huge growth in online review websites which has been advantageous for hotels and businesses because it is advertising their services, and happy customers are sharing their positive experiences.
However, as these online review sites have become more popular, there are occasionally customers who threaten to use this forum as a means of getting their specific needs met, whether reasonable or not. Word-of-mouth and online reviews are often the way that customers find your venues, and negative feedback can be very damaging to your brand.
So, is there anything you can do when you have an angry or dissatisfied customer in front of you bullying and threatening you to do something for them? The answer is YES! You just need to take control of yourself and your own emotions, and consider the strategies below.
What not to do:
1. Yell back. Speak with a slow and quiet manner, making sure that you do not raise your voice.
2. Show aggressive body language. Your body will be feeling tense, so try to breathe slowly, and make sure that your body or face do not show your anger/frustration/fear. In addition, do not roll your eyes, huff or sigh, or raise your arms in any way.
3. Speak inappropriately. Ensure that you do not use any sarcasm, any expletives (swear words), aggressive language or use a tone that is overly patronising.
What to do:
1. Physical barrier. Where possible, ensure that there is a bench, desk or table between you and the aggrieved customer.
2. Listen to the customer. You may be tempted to argue back or explain to the customer why they are being unreasonable, however they are feeling a strong emotion at this time, and they need to air it. Listen without interrupting, and show that you are attending by using positive nonverbal cues (e.g. nodding, looking at them, using appropriate facial expressions, etc.)
3. Ask questions. Let them know that you really heard what they were wanting, and if you really are not sure, ask them some appropriate questions so you can gain a greater understanding, and then they will feel heard.
4. Try to resolve the issue. If you cannot give them what they want, ask them what else you might be able to do as a compromise. If you do not have the authority to comply with their suggestions, call your manager or supervisor to see if their resolution can be met.
5. Talk to someone. After the customer has left, find a friend, colleague, family member to “debrief” with – talk about what happened and take some deep breaths to calm yourself down.
Most of the time when people are upset, they simply want the staff to acknowledge how they are feeling and, depending on the situation, they may be within their rights to expect some type of compensation or at least an explanation. Print off this sheet, share it with your employees and colleagues, and refer to this when you are facing an upset customer.
Sally-Anne McCormack is a clinical psychologist from ANTSA Psychology.