What to do When a Customer Has a Meltdown

ComplaintsWhy is customer service such a challenge at times? It’s a relationship, and all relationships involve an element of give and take.

When the give exceeds the take or vice versa, people perceive there is something out of balance. Typically, they look for a way to restore that balance.

This desire for balance and equity transcends cultural boundaries. The language and customs may vary, but inequity in relationships will always result in a search for a new state of equilibrium.

The next time an angry customer unsettles your day, don’t take it personally. Instead train your staff to appreciate what’s happening at a subconscious level. Here’s how to defuse the situation:

Quietly ask the customer to take a deep breath, and you take a deep breath along with them. You’re now forging an on-the-spot partnership with the upset customer.

Here’s the challenging part: Resist all efforts by the other party to bait you into an angry or hostile response. If you offer no resistance, that relieves the pressure on the other person to control the situation. You have now bought yourself some time.

Next focus on controlling the tone and level of your voice. Don’t raise it even if the other person is shouting. When they calm down, which they will do when you stop responding to their anger, invite them to tell you what has made them unhappy.

Be empathic. Help your staff understand the importance of validating the person’s feelings of anger. As soon as the altercation has ended, go to the worker who handled the problem and lend an empathic ear. Let the employee vent in a back room. Depending on the intensity of the interchange, you may also suggest the employee take the rest of the day off work.

Customer service workers may become emotionally compromised following an unpleasant encounter. It can be helpful to bring in another employee to handle the problem, giving relief to the worker who was unsettled by the interchange.

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