This quarter, more than any other time of the year, is a breeding ground for stress, and when you work in a customer service role, as all employees in the property management industry do, you’re bound to be on the receiving end of someone’s meltdown. Research conducted by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting of Alexandria, VA says that 70% of customers who have problems with a product or service are in a rage by the time they talk with the front line customer service staff.
Of those 70% of irked customers, 24% yell, 8% threaten to sue, and 5% start cursing. With those numbers, it’s no wonder that turnover for customer service employees each year can go as high as 300%. To keep your cool, it takes training and some great techniques. Below, you’ll find 5 quick tricks for keeping calm in the face of an overly stressed resident. This list is by no means comprehensive, but maybe one of these can help you turn an unpleasant customer interaction into a golden resident retention opportunity.
■ If you’re on the phone and not dealing with them in person, Donna Earl, who owns a customer service training and management company in San Francisco, suggests looking up to the ceiling so that your breathing relaxes. She says that you can also trace figure-eights in the air with your eyes, which helps to calm you down because it relaxes and refocuses the eye muscles. (To repeat: Don’t do this if the person is right in front of you!)
■ Make sure that you don’t make this about you. This is entirely about the customer and their dissatisfaction. Don’t demand that they show you respect, because that is sure to escalate the situation. Realize that, to them, respect is earned, and if you want to earn it, then you should solve their problem.
■ Try dropping the volume of your own voice. Tempting as it is to raise your voice and mimic their communication patterns, you have to remain in control of yourself. Speaking more softly is disarming to an angry person because they anticipate you will yell back at them. Doing the opposite throws them off guard. Also, when you’re speaking softer, they have to quiet themselves to hear what you have to say.
■ Empathize with your customer. At some point in your life you have undoubtedly faced disappointment at the hands of a company or product. Find a way to get on their side of the issue and they’re more likely to be interested in solving the problem with you, rather than fighting against you.
■ Tag Out! If you’re getting nowhere with this resident, then call in reinforcements. Sometimes we don’t want to ask for help because it might make us look like we can’t handle our jobs, but the truth is that wise employees know when enough is enough with an irate customer, and they know that sometimes a different voice has a better chance of getting through.
Don’t be afraid to have someone else jump in the ring and help you – you might just learn something!