How to Talk Crazy Customers “Off the Ledge” and Other Tactics

 

It is about them.

What to do when people are out of control.

The other day I was at Dunkin’ Donuts when a customer started yelling. The store was packed; he was a big man and pointing his finger at the clerk’s nose.  His beef was he hadn’t gotten his toasted muffin or tuna fish sandwich. The manager was trying to explain that her oven wasn’t working, and she was sorry for the inconvenience.

The more she explained her side of the case, the worse it got.  It didn’t matter what she said, he continued to berate her in front of the other customers. I thought about putting my hand on his arm in hopes it might calm him down. (I knew it wasn’t a good idea, so I didn’t do it.) I thought he might have a gun, and we would all be history. At this point, people were putting their heads down and leaving.  I considered the same but realized there was a lot for me to learn. This was nothing about customer service; it was about a crazy and berating customer.

The clerk gave him his money back and explained she would give him the rest of the order for free. This wouldn’t satisfy him either. He slammed through the door and ran into the parking lot still yelling. His partner wasn’t impressed; she started screaming at him for not bringing the order; so much for a pleasant ride to the Catskills.

Was there anything else she could have done? She was upset,  shaking but not on the verge of tears. It was obvious she was well trained but “not that well trained.”

  1. There’s a point where she should have shut up. The customer wasn’t listening, didn’t care and wasn’t logical.  He was very emotional. There’s no point trying to defend yourself.
  2. You can agree with the customer. So he believes your stupid for not having what he wants, and he believes he’s entitled. I don’t know what he would have said, but the rest of us would have enjoyed her approach and logic.
  3. It would have helped if she had raised her voice instead of retreating into her rather quiet approach. A loud “you’re right “might have helped. It’s called “talking the customer off the ledge.” Power it up, not with the same anger but with matching volume. Who knows what’s going on in his life?
  4. Don’t make the fire any hotter by explaining anything. A simple “sorry” is enough.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Sure this is tough to do, but it really has nothing to do with you. I watched an episode at the bank that was quite amazing. I didn’t hear the original conversation, but I did hear the teller say to  the customer if he said that again, she  would come around to the front and “pound him! “Okay she was fired but I had a feeling he might have been really out of line. Do you want more information on this subject? Check out this article, “10 Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers.”

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping businesses to build loyal customers for the last twenty years. To have her speak to your company or schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or check out her web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com.


Media Center

Media Center

Press materials, FAQs, images and features about Lis and Red Hot Customer Service. More Info

10 Questions with Lis Calandrino

Thoughts on retail, web marketing and what it takes to succeed in today's tough marketplace. More Info

Brain Snacks: Little Life Tidbits to Energize Your Mind

Brain Snacks: Little Life Tidbits to Energize Your Mind

Get the ebook that everyone is talking about: Brain Snacks, featuring tips and advice to better manage life. More Info