Tuesday, December 3, 2013

At some point in time, it happened. In fact, I'm not sure when the transition occurred. There was a point in the annuls of history... perhaps the eighties, where I discovered the power of words.
I'm talking about the angry customer. The irate businessman. The apathetic student trainee.
By using certain words, listening and then doing the unexpected, I would turn a potentially hazardous situation into a positive experience.
Let's talk about the angry customer.
Often times this person comes out of left field nursing a grudge or a perceived insult.
The first thing you want to do it listen to them. Let them rant and get it out of their system.
Then agree with them.
'You know, if I was in your shoes I'd be mad too.'
'That's not right, let's take care of that right now.'
or my favorite: 'I will do everything in my power to help you.'
I go with a variant of one of those expressions depending on the situation.
In deciding which approach to use, I first listen and gauge the person. What's the body language saying? What does the person want to happen?
Tailor your response accordingly. Most importantly, get on their side. People who feel wronged want someone to rail against. Don't give it to them. Instead, sympathize and offer to help.
A customer came to the main desk one day and she was fuming! No one helped her. The cashier wouldn't help. This lady wanted blood. Another cashier flagged me down and asked for help in preventing a nuclear meltdown.
No sooner were the words 'Can I help you?' out of my mouth when she started spewing her rant. I let her get it out of her system, but let's put that in the 'listening' column.
She finished with the words; 'and there's no one to help.'
I replied, 'Now you have me.'
We walked over and got a few bags of mulch. Along the way I discovered she didn't want to lift the heavy bags because of her bad back.
Never mind the cashier couldn't leave her station even if she wanted to. Forget the fact that the persons working the area were helping other customers. I turned an irate customer into... well, a customer. She was grateful, but not enthused. Nobody got in trouble, and I managed to calm an angry person down.
When a customer returns... let's say a pizza, there's too many anchovies or something. The best response would be, 'Whoa, how did they get on there? I'll fix that for you right away.'
If I were to run a business, be it a deli or a shoe shop, my first rule would be to love all, serve all. It doesn't matter where you're from or what's the color of your skin, I am going to do my best to make you feel welcome.
One last word before I sign off. A customer approached me and asked; "Are you busy?"
The words came out of my mouth before I could ponder their meaning. "I'm never too busy for my customers."
I saw a lot more of that lady after that day. That's the way I run the shop.

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