Kill Them With Kindness: 4 Ways to Disarm Irate Customers & Disgruntled Employees

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Image by: Kenneth Konica
By Judy Willard

It happens to the best of us, and it must be dealt with.  Whether it’s an irate customer or a disgruntled employee, small business owners have to learn how to disarm the crabby people that affect our sales and customer service reviews.

While we may not be new to the prickly people in our lives, it is important to remind ourselves that our reactions can affect the situation in the same ways.

If you are having trouble with angry people affecting your small business, check out these four ways to react in order to defuse the situations, and disarm the angry people.

#1) Stay Polite

One tell-tale sign of animosity from either a customer or employee is verbal and nonverbal disrespect.  Perhaps it’s something they say, something they do, or something they refuse to do.

While our first natural response is to defend ourselves against disrespect, this can be detrimental.  Remember to keep your composure.

If you are dealing with an irate customer, make sure you are listening to what that customer has to say.  Even if that customer is using foul language or is at a high intensity level, sift through the insults, and make sure you do not stoop to her level.

If you are dealing with an employee, listen to what that employee has to say; then, politely remind that employee of his or her place in your company.  By showing that you hear them, you can work toward defusing the situation.

Additionally, tell your customer or employee how he or she is making you feel.  Let them know that the two of you can create greater results if only you can get through the anger.

#2) Be Respectful

While your customer or employee is not showing you respect, it is important for you to show her respect.  Remember that your customers have a lot of power when it comes to sales volume for a small business, and it is essential to leave them pleased, or at the very least satisfied.

If you do stoop to her level and “fight back”, you risk losing that customer and an unknown number of customers she can reach.

With Yelp.com and other consumer review websites readily available, being disrespectful toward a customer can lead to a PR nightmare.

Additionally, your employees have a voice, and an opinion, and they aren’t afraid to use it.  Getting bashed by an employee on the internet can lead to loss of potential customers.

Being respectful and helpful is the best way to ensure that you are doing your best to help the customers and employees. They may still bash you, but as long as you don’t give them any extra ammunition, your potential customer base will be less likely to believe the bashing.

#3) Remind Them of the Rules

Many of your customers might not have read the policies of your company.

For example, you could have a customer who is having difficulty returning a product.  Let them know that your return policy states that you will need up to six weeks to receive the return, process it, and send a replacement.

Arming them with knowledge will help calm their nerves.  Remember to stay polite in order to show that you are trying to be helpful.  Consumers with product issues want to know that the person on the other line (or the other side of the email) is working for them, not demeaning them.

If you are having a meeting with a disgruntled employee, make sure you have a copy of the employee handbook available to show your employee the conduct and subordination polices of your company.

Remember to stay polite and respectful again.  Many employee complaints you are listening, you are proving that employee wrong.

#4) Understand What They Want

As stated above, many employee complaints come from that employee not feeling respected or needed.  If the employee doesn’t understand his or her position, they are more likely to act out.

On the other hand, an irate customer might be getting upset because he or she has already established what he or she wants from you.

In either situation, sort through the anger and insults, and figure out exactly what that person wants from you.

You may have to directly ask that person in order to get a straight answer.  Remember to pay close attention to how you ask this question.  It could be as simple as asking a customer, “How can we resolve this issue?”, or asking an employee, “Help me help you.  What can we do to fix this work environment?”

Angry people are a part of life.  Make sure you don’t jeopardize your small business by reacting inappropriately.  Defuse the situations by knowing what the irate person wants, keeping your composure, and not stooping to that person’s level.

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